Masala Chai

I finally got my hands on some green cardamom pods – the only ingredient I still needed to make my own masala chai (“spiced tea” commonly known as chai tea). I found them in the bulk section at a local health food store. This is the first time I’d bought anything from their bulk selection, and I’m a little embarrassed at how intimidating it was. They were busy and everyone else looked like they knew exactly what they were doing. I however, forgot to write the PLU code on the bag and had to run back while the customers behind me waited impatiently in line. Yeah, I was that lady.

Cardamom Pods

It was worth it. I was finally going to make my own masala chai. I did my research and came up with what looked like a good recipe. It took me about 30 minutes to make.

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 2 or 3 pods cardamom
  • 1 slice fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 slice of orange zest (or about 1/4 teaspoon of grated zest)
  • 4 black tea bags or 4 tablespoons of loose-leaf tea (the stronger the better, Assam if you can find it)
  • 1/8 cup honey 1/8 cup raw cane sugar (you can substitute with regular sugar or just use 1/4 cup of honey)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups milk
  1. Grind the cinnamon stick, whole cloves and cardamom pods. I would have preferred fresh grated nutmeg and whole allspice, but didn’t have any on hand. If you don’t have a spice grinder or mini food processor you can place the spices on a cutting board, cover with a towel and smash them with a rolling pin or other heavy object.
  2. Combine the water, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, black pepper and orange zest in saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the tea, honey, sugar and vanilla and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the tea bags to prevent bitterness and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.
  5. Add milk and return to a boil, then remove from heat and strain through a fine sieve.

Malsala Chai Ingredients

This recipe yields about 3 and 1/2 cups of prepared tea. If you don’t plan on drinking this much at one time you can store it in the refrigerator and reheat it later. I doubled the recipe and left the milk out, which gave me about 3 cups of my own chai concentrate. It was pretty strong and sweet for my taste, so I added a little more milk than tea, maybe 1/3 cup of concentrate to 2/3 cup of milk.

Wow! I think my morning coffee has just been replaced. This was so much better than the one I got from Starbucks, which uses Tazo Chai concentrate. It wasn’t as sweet, but that was intentional. Starbucks’ version was too sugary for my taste (31 grams of sugar in a Tall Chai Tea Latte). Mine also had better ingredients (fresh raw, whole milk for one), and it costs a lot less. Cardamom pods seem expensive, but I can probably make enough chai tea to have a cup every day for 4  months with my $3 bag of pods.  I’ve also tried a few “instant” chai teas and none of them even came close. As a matter of fact, now I know how far off the mark they were. (One of them even tasted like red hots in milk.)

The best thing about this recipe is that you can tweak it. Add more sugar if you like it sweet. You can use skim milk if you want it light (though I don’t recommend it) or heavy cream if you want it really rich.  I prefer whole milk. You could also use fewer or more teabags, depending on your preference for boldness.

Don’t be afraid to play with the spices either. Keep in mind that most of the chai tea recipes I found usually included cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and pepper and often contained cloves and sometimes nutmeg. The orange zest was an unusual ingredient for chai tea in my search. Next time I may experiment with star anise and more pepper. I admit I was a little timid with the pepper.

You can substitute the whole spices with pre-ground spices if that’s all you have on hand, but in general I find whole spices to be more pungent and superior. They also keep longer. In my opinion, it’s worth the extra step to freshly grind your own spices when you can in any recipe, especially if it’s something you don’t use often.

These flavors are so good together. I ran across a recipe for masala chai brownies that was tempting and I’ve heard it’s good with coffee as well. I’m eager to experiment with cardamom in cooking other foods like bread, and I feel inspired to try some simple Indian recipes. I’m finding Inspiration everywhere these days.


About Michele
Wife and Mom of three girls doing her best to lead the family into a healthier lifestyle and evolve gracefully.

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