July 20, 2011

Cardamom Chai

There’s nothing I like better than a little mug of sweet cardamom tea to unwind after an action-packed day. Today the term ‘chai’ has become a generic term for posh frothy mugs of under-spiced and over-priced drinks available in coffee shops across the globe. This makes me sad.
The recipe for chai is one I email out a lot to readers and I think finally, it’s time to officially share one with everyone. It’s taken me long enough.
If you’ve never tasted a real cup of Indian chai, you won’t know that it should be spicy, not just aromatic but full of heat from ground cloves, cinnamon and peppercorns. The spice should be balanced with a generous amount of sugar, milk (or condensed milk) and of course, well-brewed tea leaves.
This is the epitome of the perfect Indian chai.
Making tea is a fine-tuned art everyone can be a dab hand at. Every family has its own recipe but the balance of flavours will always be in perfect harmony. Don’t be shy, play with flavours, and find your favourite combinations of spices. Just make sure they are balanced against the strength of tea, and quantities of milk and sugar.
I’m currently in love with fresh green cardamom pods and find myself adding it to just about anything from Paneer Butter Masala to Eggless Banana and Cardamom Crème Brûlée. Insanely delicious.
Something I’ve been receiving a lot of questions about via email is how to add depth of flavour to homemade chai. The answer is simple and if you haven’t been to India to it made by the super-talented chaiwalla, it’s something any Indian can reveal to you – just boil it in a saucepan.
The secret, revealed
Boiling tea leaves with milk, water and ground spices for seven to twelve minutes removes the ‘raw’ smell of milk and ensures the spices and tea are well infused into the final product. The stronger you like your tea, the longer you leave it to boil
Finally, strain the chai through a fine-holed sieve to catch any spice sediment. Wouldn’t want to gulp that down. Having said this, excess masala settling at the bottom of the cup is completely normal – just don’t drink it.
I love the feeling of almost reaching the bottom of the cup and knowing it’s going to get a little bit spicier.
Cardamom Tea
(serves two)
290ml water
290ml whole milk
1 tbsp black tea leaves (I use Darjeeling)
1 tsp freshly ground green cardamom seeds
-inch stick cinnamon
2 tbsp sugar
1. Boil the water, tea leaves, cardamom and cinnamon for around 3 minutes.
2. Add the milk and sugar and continue to boil for at least a further 5 minutes or more, up to 9 minutes. Ensure it’s on a rolling boil.
3. Strain into cups using a fine-holed sieve and serve.
The perfect sweet treat to compliment chai has to be Nankhatai, spiced Indian biscuits. They’re perfect for dunking and are likely to be flavoured with some of the usual suspects; green cardamom, saffron, ground mace… I’ll stop before I slip into a spice coma.
Goodnight, sleep tight and sweet dreams.

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21 responses to “Cardamom Chai”

  1. Priya (Yallapantula) Mitharwal says:

    That is very well explained Sanjana, love the picture and the cup too 馃檪

  2. Steph says:

    Oh wow!! Now that I know that secret, I'll have to give this a try! I lova chai!

  3. Parsley Sage says:

    This sounds absolutely incredible! Thanks for all the tips, I'm gonna have to give it a try. I'm now convinced I've never had real Chai tea before!

  4. notyet100 says:

    Ya u right chai available at coffee shops are over priced 馃檪 , luv the pic of nankhatai and chai

  5. Shobha says:

    I love this chai too..I just cannot drink tea without cardamom.Nice presentation!

  6. Hari Chandana says:

    Wowwww… Very beautiful pictures.. Love the presentation too.. .Thanks for sharing dear 馃檪
    Indian Cuisine

  7. Nithya says:

    I so much love this chai 馃檪 Lovely clicks. I just love your blue mugs a lot 馃檪

  8. Mem贸ria says:

    I have everything but the tea leaves! I must try this out pronto!

  9. Tina says:

    beautiful pictures..

  10. Cooking Foodie says:

    The ubiquitous beverage in India 馃檪 I love the cardamom one much much more than ginger…

  11. Kate@Diethood says:

    Wow, that is just gorgeous! The word, Chai, in Macedonian means Tea. When coffee shops started throwing around this word 'chai' I was a wee bit confused because it wasn't the stuff that I knew as chai. 馃檪 Glad you spilled the secrets! :))

  12. RFR says:

    Sanjana – first of all, you have a beautiful name. I love a good cup of chai. THis was so warming to read. 馃檪 I like a mix of Darjeeling, Asaam, and Green tea that my mother makes. The best things are simple, right? Your photos are amazing.

  13. Mr. P says:

    You have reminded me how long it has been since I chai'd. Must remedy!

  14. Jennifer says:

    This sounds incredible. Love chai tea but this is a step above. Stumbled on your blog…

  15. Mem贸ria says:

    I'm sipping on this drink right now. I made a lower fat version by using skim/non-fat milk and Splenda blend sugar. Thank you so much for a fantastic recipe. I'm hooked!

  16. i love the clicks AWESOME

  17. I love chai! Just had a great cuppa at Prerna of Indian Simmer’s house last Monday :).

  18. Chai says:

    Amazing Cardamom Chai, It sounds delicious !!

  19. altaf says:

    thanx a lot dear…

  20. […] Brit-born, Indian-and East-African-rooted Sanjana is a complete culinary badass when it comes to brunch or indeed any other meal. Steal slick style ideas from her pretty plating, but聽don’t just look – cook! Keep carbs firmly on the menu, and say hello to aloo parathas,聽mini masala dosa, and masala pooris聽served alongside heaping helpings of Gujarati potato-cashew curry. Loosen your belt, add聽piles of bottlegourd dumplings and Tanzanian donuts to the mix, and wash it all down with lashings of cardamom chai. […]

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