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 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 reserved exclusively for making tea
- Spoon for stirring
- Tea Strainer
- Water, 1 1/4 cups
- Green Cardamom Pods, 3-4, smashed
- Fresh Ginger, Sliced, 1 tbsp
- Loose Black Tea Leaves, 4 tsp I use Red Label Brand
- Milk, 1 cup Whole, 2%, Lactaid are fine options (nut or oat milks are not ideal and tend to produce a bitter tea)
- Sugar, 1-2 tsp
Boil the tea.
- In a steel pot, bring the water, cardamom, ginger, and loose black tea leaves to a boil. Stir every so often to prevent the tea from sticking. *It's recommended to reserve a cooking pot exclusively for making tea to prevent other lingering oils, flavors from cooking other dishes from flavoring your tea.
Boil the tea with milk.
- As soon as the tea comes to a rumbling boil, pour in the milk. Do not overboil the loose black tea leaves or it will taste bitter. Once the milk is poured in, stir every so often. Use a spoon to stir and swirl the tea leaves in with the milk to marry the tea leaves with the milk.Bring the tea to such a rumbling boil that it foams up nearly to the top of your pot. Just as it reaches the top, turn the heat to low and let the tea rumble for a few more seconds.
Strain and cool.
- Strain the tea into a large (steel) mug with 1-2 tsp of sugar in it. Pour the mug of tea from a low to high height into your cup to create a frothy top and cool down your tea. Done!