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Example of ingredients to make Chai

Photo by doegox / CC BY




One Indian legend of tea dates back 5,000 years to the ancient courts of Siam and India when an ancient King was seeking a beverage with healing properties. Began in the Vedic period in India, Chai was already consumed as a healing beverage. [1] As well as many Asian countries, tea was and still viewed as an herbal medicine. [2]


Chai eventually becomes a daily beverage in India. You can easily find a Chai tea stall, called Chai Wallah, everywhere that "it became a part of the urban landscape and a cultural institution." [3] Today, not only in India but Chai has gained worldwide popularity and is available in many coffee and tea houses including the largest coffeehouse company in the world, Starbucks. [4]

Chai Wallah in the streets of Mumbai, India.

Photo by /bmwguggenheimlab / CC BY

Starbuck's Chai

Photo by sils67 / CC BY

Masala Chai

Photo by cpchen / CC BY

Crushing Spice Mixture with Mortar and Pestle

Photo by sharonlangridge / CC BY



The traditional ingredients for Chai are depending on their regions. A common mixture of ingredients includes: Assam black tea leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, star anise and cloves. [5] Some Chai in India may use water buffalo milk, but most western countries use cow milk, or soy/rice milk for vegetarian. [6] Sweetener can be anything from plain white sugar to jaggery, a traditional uncentrifuged sugar mostly used in rural India.


Before spice is added into the pot, the mixture needed to be crushed and grind with mortar and pestle so the flavors and oil of spice mixture will be released when cooking. The simplest traditional method of preparing Chai is through decoction, which means actively simmering mixture of ingredients (including tea leaves) and then straining the tea into a teacup or teapot with a strainer. [7]


Traditional Chai is served warm, but modern versions include hot, cold and even frozen teas. Other variation recipes include Chai latte, green chai, and red chai.

"Masala Chai" is tea made with spices. ("Masala" means spice, and "Chai" is simply the generic term for "tea" in Hindi and Swahili) It is a common beverage in India, Pakistan, the Middle East, and became popular around the world today. In the US, Chai often refers to Indian spiced tea. Masala Chai is a very flexible type of tea, depending on the spice you like. Most traditional recipes are passed down through families as heritage.



Tea: Mamri, Assam, Darjeeling, or other type of black or green tea


Sweetener: white sugar, honey, brown sugar, jaggery, or coconut


Water + Milk: cow milk, condense milk, soy milk, rice milk


Spice: cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, peppercorns and cloves, (optional: black pepper, almond, salt, turmeric, cumin, nutmeg)

Boy Straining Tea From Spice and Tea Leaves

Photo by Pratheepps / CC BY


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