Masala chai also known as masala tea is India’s most popular drink and is loved by everyone. Imagine the flavors of brewing – sweet, spicy, hot and aromatic spices with sugar, milk and tea… amazing right? This masala chai is just that – amazingly flavorsome, delicious and totally relaxing. A hot cup of masala chai is an amazing way to soothe your senses and refresh your mind. This post shares the method to make a perfect cup of masala chai at home!!
A lot of Indians love to sip their masala chai all-round the year along with their breakfast and evening snack. Some limit it to monsoons & cold winters because it keeps the body warm and helps break up the blocked sinus.
Many different kinds of tea are made across the world and each one has its own properties so they have different health benefits.
About Masala Chai
Masala chai is an Indian beverage made by brewing black tea with spices, sugar and milk. In Hindi the word “Masala” means “spices” and “chai” means “Tea”. So masala chai is milk tea brewed with aromatic spices. There are also versions where aromatic herbs like mint (pudina) and Tulsi (holy basil) are added to it.
Every Indian family may have their own recipe to make masala tea. The combination of spices, the quantity of milk, water and the kind of tea to use – is a personal choice & this is what decides the strength, flavour and taste of your masala chai.
In this post I share the way I make at home & it closely matches the flavors of masala chai available in good Standard Indian restaurants. It can be made in so many flavors all to suit your liking. So you can also easily customize this recipe to your taste.
There are 2 basic ways a masala chai is made. I have shared both the ways here in this post. The first method is to make it instantly with just 3 to 4 basic spices. They are crushed and then simmered with tea & water. Later you just add milk and simmer further. We don’t need any other tea masala for this.
The second one is great if you wish to enjoy masala chai regularly or often. To make this, whole spices are ground in a spice grinder and stored. Making your cup of masala chai is super easy with this, add it to your everyday milk tea and simmer for some time so flavors of masala are infused.
How to choose your Tea
Traditionally masala chai is made with loose tea leaves but now most people use processed black tea which is in granular or powder form. There are basically 2 different kinds of processed tea in the market – CTC and Tea dust.
CTC tea is produced by processing tea leaves through cylindrical rollers to Crush, Tear and Curl them, the resulting processed tea is in a granular or pellet form. This CTC tea imparts bolder and robost flavors to your masala chai along with a deep brown color.
Tea dust is another kind of processed tea which is finer and is almost in powder form. Apart from these you can also make masala tea with black tea bags.
In India tea is grown largely in 3 regions and each is named after the region – Assam tea, Darjeeling tea and Nilgiri tea. Each of these have a different flavour, strength and taste due to the soil, weather and region.
In South India, Nilgiri tea is more commonly used and everywhere else it is the Assam tea that is more popular. Again it is a personal choice and you need to try out a few until you find something that you really love.
Types of Tea
Assam tea is loved for its deep color and strong flavour. If you love strong tea known as kadak chai, this may be the one for you. Darjeeling tea is well known for fruity flavour. Nilgiri tea has a fruity flavour of the Darjeeling tea and strong bold flavors like Assam tea.
Nilgiri tea won’t leave any astringent taste even if it is brewed for longer as they contain very little tannins. So it is suitable to those who like to make strong chai by simmering the tea with spices and milk for longer.
In a lot of places in South India, you will find tea being simmered for too long to get that full-bodied strong tea. It tastes really so good with just a little amount of milk in it. So if you prefer simmering your tea for longer then go with Nilgiri.
If you don’t live in India, then use any strong black tea you like.
Choosing other ingredients
Spices – The basic and most common spices used in masala tea are green cardamoms, cloves and cinnamon. The other optional spices are black pepper, ginger, fennel seeds, nutmeg and star anise. Each spice has its own health benefits. To know more scroll down to read my pro tips section.
Milk – The quantity of milk to add depends on your personal taste and the kind of milk used. Too much milk in your tea can completely alter the taste of your tea and can cause acidity. Masala chai with too little milk will also not taste good and will be watery. An ideal ratio of water to milk can range from 1:1 to 3:1 depending on the kind of milk – homogenized, non-homogenized, toned and raw milk . I have provided more details in the notes section of the recipe card.
Sweetener – Traditionally unrefined sweetener known as jaggery is used. It is a personal choice and we love ours with cane sugar. You can also have it with any other sweetener of your choice. If using jaggery, coconut sugar or palm jaggery add them once you turn off the heat.
How to Make Masala Chai (Stepwise photos)
Method 1 – Make Black Tea
1. Pour 1¾ cups water to a pot. Add tea powder or tea leaves. I use 2 to 3 teaspoons CTC Tea leaves or 1 to 1¼ teaspoon powder (dust), depending on the brand. You can use more or less depending on the kind of tea you are using. Or You can also use 3 tea bags.
2. Bring this to a boil & simmer. Meanwhile get your spices ready.
3. To make instant masala chai, add the following whole spices (masala) to a small mortar pestle or spice grinder.
- 2 to 3 cloves (2 for milder flavor)
- ½ to ¾ cinnamon (Cassia or Ceylon)
- 4 green cardamoms
4. Crush them fine or slightly coarse to bring out the flavors.
Make Masala Tea
5. Add the masala chai powder and ginger (optional).
6. Also add sugar at this stage. I use 3 to 4 teaspoons. You can use as little or as much as you prefer. Let the tea come to a rapid boil especially if you are using ginger.
7. Pour ½ to ¾ cup full fat milk to the simmering black tea. Adjust the quantity of milk as needed. Adding milk before boiling the ginger well will more likely curdle the milk. So ensure you add the milk only after boiling the ginger well with black tea.
If using tea bags, remove them from the pot and keep aside. Boiling the tea bags too long will leave a bitter taste. If your tea isn’t strong enough, you may add more tea bags.
8. Bring the tea to a rolling boil and simmer on a low to medium heat until the tea turns dark, for 4 to 5 mins. Simmering helps the tea to thicken. I usually simmer until it reduces to 1¾ cup. Fresh holy basil (tulsi) or mint leaves can also be used for variations. You can taste test and add more milk if you prefer. But simmer again for a little longer so the tea doesn’t have the milk flavor.
Pulling Masala Chai
When the chai is done, you will see a layer of milk cream on top. Turn off the stove.
Pulled masala chai tastes best as the milk fats are dispersed during the process & you get the same taste as from a chaiwala. Pour some of the hot tea to a measuring cup (that has a handle) and pour that back to the chai pot in a slow stream, from a height of about 1 ½ to 2 feet. This should break down the layer of milk cream and create some froth. Repeat this steps of pulling tea from the pot to the measuring cup a few times (4 to 5 times) until all of the cream is broken down and incorporated back into the masala chai.
9. Filter masala chai tea to serving cups.
Serve masala chai hot or warm with biscuits.
Method 2 – Make Chai Masala Powder
1. This is the second method. If you drink masala tea regularly, you can make the masala chai powder in little larger quantity and store it in a glass jar. For quantities refer the recipe card below.
2. This will give you about 3 tsps powder.
3. To make masala tea, fresh ginger, tea powder or tea leaves, and ground spices are simmered in water to infuse the flavors. You can use the same quantities of water and milk mentioned in the recipe card.
Serve masala chai hot or warm.
Masala chai is made with black tea, spices, sugar and milk. It is basically black tea simmered with spices, sugar and milk. Various spices like cloves, cinnamon, cardamoms, nutmeg, black pepper and ginger are used.
Chai is a generic term meaning ‘tea’ in Hindi, while masala chai means ‘spiced tea’. Masala means ‘spices’ and chai means ‘tea’.
Yes a lot of Indians drink masala tea every day, round the year. But it depends on where you live and your body constitution. If you live in a hot and humid weather, reduce the warming spices like cloves and black pepper and increase the quantity of green cardamoms. Limit your consumption to 1 to 2 cups a day.
You have used too much water or too little milk. The right ratio of water to milk is very crucial to make a good chai. For best results, you will need anywhere from 1:1 to 3:1 ratios (W: M) depending on the kind of milk.
Full fat Homogenized, toned & raw cow milk work with 3:1 ratio while low fat and non-homogenized cow milk (pasteurized, pre-boiled) work with 1:1 ratio. However do experiment a few times to arrive at what works well for you.
Using a lot of tea leaves or powder can make your tea bitter. The amount of tea to use again depends on the brand of tea and kind of milk you use. Try reducing the quantity of tea next time or add more milk and simmer for a while to cut down the bitterness.
Most masala tea recipes use fresh ginger. If you use fresh ginger, always boil it first along with black tea, until the decoction reaches a boiling point. Add the milk only after that. Adding milk early before the ginger boils can curdle the milk due to ginger protease enzyme known as zingibain. Boiling the ginger to a boiling point will destroy this enzyme so your tea won’t curdle.
Masala Chai Recipe | Masala Tea
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
Method 1 – Instant masala chai powder
- 4 green cardamoms (5 for stronger flavor) (elaichi)
- 2 cloves (3 for stronger flavor)
- ½ to ¾ inch cinnamon piece (cassia or Ceylon)
For making Tea
- 1¾ cup water
- 2 to 3 teaspoon black tea leaves or 1 to 1¼ teaspoon tea powder (dust) (Refer notes)
- 3 to 4 teaspoons sugar or as needed
- ½ to 1 teaspoon ginger freshly chopped or ½ inch crushed (optional)
- ½ to ¾ cup full fat milk (adjust to taste, Refer notes)
Method 2 – Makes 3 tsp masala chai powder
- 1 teaspoon green cardamoms (5 grams skinned) (elaichi)
- ½ teaspoon cloves (2 grams)
- 2½ to 3 grams cinnamon (cassia or Ceylon)
- ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds (1½ grams) (saunf)
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon black pepper corn (½ tsp ground pepper)
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg grated or ⅓ of large nutmeg
- 2 petals star flower (star anise) (chakri phool)
Method 1 – How to make instant masala chai
- Pour water to a pot and add the tea. Bring this to a boil.
- Meanwhile add cloves, cardamom & cinnamon stick to a mortar pestle or spice grinder. Crush or grind them to a powder.
- Add it to boiling water along with crushed ginger.
- Boil for about 2 to 3 minutes on a low to medium flame. The black tea must be boiling rapidly especially if you are using ginger.
- When the flavors are infused well pour milk and bring it to a boil on a medium high heat.
- Reduce the heat and simmer until the tea darkens & turns thick for about 4 to 5 mins. I usually simmer the entire tea until it reduces approximately to 1 ¾ cups.
- When the masala tea is ready, you will see a layer of cream on top and also the milk flavor is gone.
- Optionally pull your masala chai for the same Chaiwala taste. Pour some of the hot masala chai to a cup that has a long handle, like a measuring cup. Pour the hot tea in a slow stream, back to the chai pot from a height of 1 ½ to 2 feet.
- Repeat this step of pulling hot masala chai from the pot to the cup, a few times(4 to 5 times). This breaks down the layer of cream and incorporates it back to the masala chai making it more tasty and thick.
- Strain the masala chai to serving cups & serve with any breakfast, snack or biscuits.
Method 2 – Making masala chai powder or chai masala
- Clean all the spices and add to a blender jar. Powder finely. Store it in an airtight glass jar.
- Use about ½ tsp or more to make 2 servings of tea. For stronger tea you can use about ¾ tsp.
- Avoid overboiling the tea: If you boil too long, the tea turns bitter and becomes too heavy. Turn off when you begin to smell the sweet flavor in your tea.
- Tea powder/ leaves: The strength of tea depends on the kind of tea used like tea powder, tea leaves etc. It also depends on the brand of tea powder or leaves. Do adjust the quantities as desired. You won’t really know the right amount that works well unless you experiment a few times.
- Kadak Chai: This recipe will give you a proper Kadak Chai with 1¼ teaspoon tea powder (dust) or 2½ to 3 teaspoons CTC loose tea leaves (Assam) & full fat homogenized or toned milk.
- Brands of Tea : Wagh bakri, Tata Gold are some of the best known brands for loose leaf tea.
- Milk: Some like tea to be more milky and some less. Also adjust the quantity of milk if needed. I have tested this recipe with various kinds of full fat milk – fresh, homogenized and toned. Fresh homogenized and toned work well with the same quantities mentioned in the recipe.
- Low fat milk: If you are using low fat milk or non-homogenized cow milk, use milk and water in 1:1 proportions.
- Spices: You can increase or decrease the quantity of spices to suit your taste. I buy all my spices locally in Singapore but are grown in India or Sri Lanka.
- A few strands of saffron can be added for a unique flavor.
- You can add few tulsi (holy basil) leaves to increase immunity, though we may not benefit as much as eating the raw leaves.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
Masala Chai Recipe first published in September 2014. Updated and Republished in February 2022.