Cuppa chai anyone?

04 Apr

As food-bloggers, in our quest to cook exotic food, we tend to give a miss to some of the everyday food, that are simple to cook and very satisfying. These everyday foods are staple in most households, dished out day-in and day-out, and as one starts to find their footing around the kitchen, these are the dishes that they first foray into. These dishes make or break a person’s interest in cooking and hence, although rarely given their due, play a very pivotal role. In this series, Freshmen Cooking, I hope to bring attention to these dishes. Also, I am hoping this will help kindle interest to cook in all those non-foodies out there 🙂

The idea for this post was triggered by an email conversation that I had with a friend – she wanted to know how do I prepare chai (the milky Indian version of tea), do I use any special tea leaves or spices? Her complaint was that her attempt at preparing chai was not as fruitful, and she wanted to know a fool-proof way of making chai with exact measurements. I immediately replied to her mail with instructions and used to eye-balling, I found this a little challenging. This set me thinking – how many times when I first ventured into the kitchen, have I pestered my mom to give me exact measurements – how much tamarind do I need for sambar or how much salt should I add to rasam? We all go through that stage, when as beginners we need exact measurements and instructions and slowly graduate to eye-balling 🙂 That is when I realized that for every foodie out there, there are probably 1000 (if not more) others that are novices, who have no idea about cooking and they would need recipes that are easy and simple to prepare, not laborious ones that will scare them away for life. The motivation for this series is to chronicle easy, simple, everyday food that will make cooking a pleasure and get people interested enough to venture into the exotic territory 🙂 Let’s begin cooking!

As a thank you gesture to my friend who set me thinking in this direction, I decided to write the first post in this series on, hold your breath, making chai.


This will make gingery chai for one person, scale it up as per the amount required:

  • Start boiling 1/2 cup of water over stove top.
  • Add 3/4 teaspoon tea leaves to this water, you don’t have to wait for the water to boil. As the water is getting heated up, you can add the tea leaves. Add as much sugar as you want – start with about 1/2 tsp of sugar – if need be, you can add more later.
  • Take about 1/4″ piece of ginger and mince it well. Add this minced ginger to the now-boiling tea water. Also add a small bit (1/4″ perhaps) of cinnamon and 1 clove – both slightly crushed in a mortar and pestle.
  • By now, the water should be boiling – add 1/2 cup of milk at this stage.
  • When the milk starts to boil and raise, simmer the gas to medium heat.
  • Let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Strain and enjoy your hot cuppa chai 🙂

This is a slightly milky chai, which is how I prefer. If you find it too milky (or less milky), experiment with the milk:water ratio.


  • Cardamom chai: Instead of adding ginger, crush a piece of cardamom along with cinnamon and clove.
  • Spicy chilly chai: Instead of ginger, add one whole chilly (I prefer the red-variety over green in chai). For a spicier chai, crush the chilly slightly before adding to the water.
  • Peppery chai: Along with ginger, add a lil bit of crushed black pepper. This is very soothing for the throat and especially good when ailing from cold and nasal congestion.
  • Vanilla Chai: If you feel adventurous, add 1/2 pod of Vanilla bean instead of ginger to the water. For a stronger flavor, split open the pod, scrape out the seeds and add this to the water.
  • No milk chai: After the water with tea leaves and spices (no sugar) comes to a rolling boil, let it simmer for couple of minutes and turn it off. Add some honey and lemon juice and have a relaxing cup of no milk chai.

These are some of my favorite spins on chai. So dear readers, have you experimented with chai and if yes, what is your favorite way to drink chai?


Posted by on April 4, 2008 in Cooking, Desi


Tags: , , , ,

17 responses to “Cuppa chai anyone?

  1. Divya Vikram

    April 4, 2008 at 2:09 PM

    Ginger tea is my fav..

  2. Vegeyum Ganga

    April 4, 2008 at 8:14 PM

    Yes, please, can you bring it around?

  3. TS

    April 4, 2008 at 10:07 PM

    My dad adds ‘kulfi’ masala to chai sometimes to make it special. I love the flavor, its so much richer.
    my everyday fare however is fresh ginger with cardamom. Love it!

    the spice who loved me

    Kulfi masala in chai – wow! that sounds really interesting. Just like you, my daily does is usually with fresh ginger and cardamom. -A-kay

  4. m's mom

    April 4, 2008 at 11:43 PM

    whatis that -much talked about these days—green tea? can u throw some light on that?

    Green tea is also derived from the same tea plant as black tea, but the leaves are not fermented , and hence has undergone minimal oxidation during the processing, Traditionally used in East Asian countries, it has become very popular in the Western World of late due to its benefits for fighting cancer and increasing metabolism (and hence weight loss) in recent times. You can find more details here. -Akay

  5. Laksh

    April 5, 2008 at 8:04 AM

    Cardomom-Ginger is my daily fav. My spin on the aam chai is on my blog 🙂

  6. UL

    April 5, 2008 at 1:26 PM

    this one is definitely for me…i need measurements…eyeballing would get me into trouble big-time…but then cooking is :boem: for me i love these smileyss :yahoo:

    Cooking ain’t that difficult UL – just let loose and explore -A-kay

  7. Madhuram

    April 5, 2008 at 2:03 PM

    Even my family’s favorite is Ginger Tea. Even I just eyeball, I think my tea would taste better if I use these exact measurements.

    Thanks for this new series. Katradhu kai mannalavu kalladhadhu ulagalvu.

    I am not sure, although I have tried and given the exact measurements here, I still eyeball 🙂 True, there is always something new to learn. -A-kay

  8. Aparna

    April 6, 2008 at 7:31 AM

    Making chai was my first regular kitchen job at Amma’s place. I only made ginger chai much to everyone’s irritation. These days I prefer elaichi chai(just the cardamom skins tossed in the tea jar makes a nice twist!)
    Talking about simple things, I learnt to chop onions from a cooking show!!
    I love the measuring cups and spoons!! Eyeball is never my cuppa tea!

    In my case, the first chore was keeping the pressure cooker in the morning. Adding cardamom to the tea jar, sounds pretty interesting. My husband K loves cardamom chai, will try this for sure. Unless I am baking, I can never use measuring cups and spoons – even if I am following a recipe, I still eyeball it 🙂 -A-kay

  9. White On Rice Couple

    April 6, 2008 at 1:56 PM

    Oh, we loooove :(love): chai too! :yahoo: :-))
    We actually wrote a whole post on masala spices! 😀 :Yes:
    Your post here has such great info, especially the vanilla chai! We’ll have to try it! :drink: :))
    You have so many fun faces here! >:) :angry: zzz
    We better go now before we annoy you any further! 😉 :angel) 😛
    Oh wait, we also like this one too… :boem:
    Thank you so much for being our blog friend! ^:)^ :r :kiss:
    Diane & Todd :friends: :kiss: :kiss:

    My god – haven’t seen anyone use so much emoticon in one comment so far 😛 I did check your post on masala spices – was very interesting. Thanks for stopping by. -A-kay

  10. m's mom

    April 6, 2008 at 6:13 PM

    When I read abt the different varieties of chai—-i cud nt help–I’m reminded of that evergreen comedy track of vadivelu with Manorama & Urvashi-ya,I mean that exotic “barley Tea ” :)) I think the film is Thamizh

  11. Lakshmi

    April 6, 2008 at 11:57 PM

    I was a coffee addict pre-marriage. Could not get out of the house unless I had the big steel tumbler of steaming hot filter kapi, sitting on that small seat near the window fighting with my lil sis for more space on the chair :-)! However for the past 4 years, Harish has made me fall hook, line and sinker with Ginger tea! Aah, Heaven I tell ya! I will defn give the red chilly chai a try.


    Well, I have never had coffee in my life, have always been a tea person and Ginger tea is perfection 🙂 My favorite among the variations is the spicy chai. -A-kay

  12. Lakshmi

    April 7, 2008 at 3:15 AM

    Cool. Now that I want to try it and it is your fav, will defn give it a try!! :-))

  13. Maggie

    April 7, 2008 at 4:39 AM

    My mom is on a roll here so tho’t would add some comments too 😉

    I have always felt that letting the tea (dust or leaves) boil in the water makes the chai too kadak- bitter if you may (a very well informed uncle of mine thinks so too) The best way to do a spice tea is to let the spices boil intensely in the water (to extract their flavor and medicinal value) and when the water is discolored 😉 add the tea , put the lid on and put off the heat – let this sit – the tea has to essentially brew in the boiling water & steam and not boil – u see ? – then add hot milk to this concoction after a good 2/3 minutes – the longer you let it the darker – try it this never fails to impress 🙂


    yeah, I have heard about the tea getting bitter, but I never found it bitter (blame it on my immature palette :-P). On a serious note, I really like the flavor of milk and tea, simmering together and also from what I have read, rolling boil makes the tea bitter whereas simmering does not – don’t ask me the logic/science behind this as I don’t know 🙂 Found this interesting article on the web to make chai in a chai-challenged office -A-kay .

  14. Jayashree

    April 7, 2008 at 1:38 PM

    Chai with just a pinch of cardamom powder in it is what I like best.
    As to your question on my blog about alternatives to an ela vadam stand, I’ve heard of people using regular microwaveable plates in a microwave steamer….haven’t tried it myself…so can’t tell you how it will turn out. I made javvarisi vadam today and it’s drying on the terrace right now….will be posting that soon.

    Microwave steamer… hmm – that is doable, alright! Eagerly awaiting your javvarisi vadam recipes. -A-kay

  15. Spillay

    April 8, 2008 at 10:04 AM

    I love tea! Will give some of your suggestions a go… :yahoo:

  16. Poker Test

    September 28, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    I should digg your post therefore other folks can see it, really helpful, I had a hard time finding the results searching on the web, thanks.

    – Murk


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