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Chai Time!

22 May 2010 One Comment Print article Print article

© Parimal Deshpand

Chai – that warm cardamom-scented sweet goodness with a kick of caffeine- is the traditional tea of India, and a favorite of DYC retreat goers. In the past, some have been put off from making it at home thinking it requires hard to find ingredients and mystical powers. Not so. If you don’t have an Indian store nearby, as well as online Indian groceries sell what you need, and it’s simple to make.

Traditional chai is made up of four ingredients:

  • A strong black tea,
  • Milk or soymilk
  • Fresh spices
  • A sweetener of some kind.

Let’s take them one at a time;

The tea – Brook Bond Red Label most often used.  Get the loose tea, not the teabags. It can be found at your local Indian store or on

The milk – whole, skim, or soymilk will do. If you use soymilk, you may want to use the unsweetened so as not to compete with the spices or sweetener you might add.

Fresh spices – freshly ground gingerroot (not powdered ginger) is crucial. If you’re not awake enough to use a grater, throw it in the food processor, skin and all. Bapuji warns against grinding up and storing several days worth in the refrigerator as the ground gingerroot can ferment. Grind or grate what you need just before making your chai.

Along with ginger, you’ll also need some cardamom seeds. Choose the black whole seeds rather than the green pods, grind them up in a coffee grinder, and store in a jar. You can get a bag of seeds at a reasonable price at your local Indian store or If you don’t want to bother with the grinding thing, you can use chai masala, a ground up combination of cardamom, peppercorns, cloves, and other spices, also found at Indian stores or online.

Sweetener – Stevia, sugar, nectar, honey – they all work. By the way, for those of you are trying to remove processed sugar from your diet and who have found Stevia bitter in the past, have you tried Truvia? It’s an “Americanized” form of Stevia. I am a fan.

Two kitchen implements will come in handy. You’ll need a fine mesh strainer and I find a wide mouth funnel saves spills.

Ready to get started? The recipe below will make two mugs of chai.

Chai Recipe

1 10 oz. mug of water

1 10 oz. mug of milk (or soy milk)

1/8 – ¼ cup grated gingerroot depending on taste

½ teaspoon ground cardamom seeds

1 ½ tablespoons Brook Bond Red Label Tea

Any sweetener of your choice.


Pour the water into a saucepan, add the ginger and bring to a boil. Add the cardamom, tea, sweetener if using, and milk. Place the wide mouth funnel if using into a mug and keep the mesh strainer close by. Once again bring to a boil watching closely to make sure it doesn’t boil over – scraping scalded sweetened milk off the top of the stove is not a great way to start the morning. Once it begins to boil, strain into mugs and serve. Don’t forget to press the last drops through the strainer with a spoon. It’s the best part!

Experiment with the proportions and ingredients to make the chai to your liking. In the summer, I like to toss in some fresh mint leaves when adding the ginger to balance out the heating properties of the ginger. Add different kinds of sweetener, choose different types of milk to find out how creamy you like it. Make it your own, and enjoy!



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One Comment »

  • Avanish said:

    One of the best part of any retreat is the chai!! Thanks for letting us in to the ‘secret’!

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