A strong, steamy cup of chai/chaya is one of the first things my mom taught me how to make. I remember curiously watching from a distance as she’d linger over the kitchen sink with two steel cups, pouring the tea high, then low, from one cup to another to cool it down and form the bubbly, frothy top I mischievously made tea moustaches out of. There was something about her teaching me this simple recipe that felt like a gifted duty. An invitation to something much bigger than myself. Like a passed-down adventure waiting for me to explore. I think it’s why mom, and most Indian households, start mornings and get-togethers with chaya. Because it, in its delicately spiced and sweetened way, offers a process and a journey, sip by sip.
Chai/Chaya is one of those recipes where every household has their own version. Some want more or less spice. Thick and milky instead of mostly water. Red Label or Wagh Bakri loose black tea leaves (among many other loose black tea options). Sugar added in during the boil or after boiling. The possibilities are endless! Over the years, I have found my comforting cup of tea. It has adapted as I have over time and I am sure it will continue to be an evolved recipe.
I hope you enjoy my chai/chaya recipe. If you need a dairy-free chaya recipe, click here! If you do decide to make it, here are some great tea time snack options for you: Ethakka Appam (Banana Fritters), Kerala Vattayappam, Indian-Inspired Banana Bread, or my Salted Chai Donuts with Spiced Coconut Cream Drizzle.
Tag me on instagram @thefamiliarkitchen if you decide to make this recipe!
How to make Chai/Chaya (Indian Tea)
- Stainless steel pot (ideally reserved exclusively for making tea to avoid other flavors)
- Ladled Spoon
- Tea Strainer
- Water, 1 cup
- Green Cardamom Pods, 5, smashed
- Peppercorns, 2-3, smashed
- Loose Black Tea Leaves, 4 tsp Wagh Bakri or Tata Chakra Gold are my favorite loose CTC teas; The Chai Box and One Stripe Chai Co make some wonderful blends with spices already in it!
- Milk, 1 1/4 cup I use 2% Lactaid milk; if using whole milk, you maybe want to reduce the amount added to about 1 cup; for dairy-free chaya, check out my dairy-free recipe
- Sugar, 2 tsp
Boil the tea.
- In a steel pot, bring the water, smashed cardamom, and smashed peppercorns to a boil. Allow to boil for 2-3 minutes so the spices steep the water.Now add the loose black tea leaves. Let brew for about 2-3 minutes. Stir every 20-30 seconds to prevent the tea from sticking. Do not overboil the loose black tea leaves or it will taste bitter.
Boil the tea with milk.
- Now pour in the milk. Once the milk is poured in, stir every so often. Use a ladle spoon to pour and swirl the tea leaves in the pot.Bring the tea to such a rumbling boil that it foams up nearly to the top of your pot. Just as it reaches the very top of the pot, turn the heat to medium low and let the tea rumble for another 20-30 seconds to deepen the flavor of the milk and tea.
Strain and cool.
- Strain the tea into a large, thin-rimmed mug. Pour the mug of tea from a low to high height into your drinking cup to create a frothy top and cool down your tea. Done!