2000s Recipes + Menus

Spiced Milk Tea (Masala Chai)

  • Active time:10 min
  • Start to finish:15 min
October 2009
Enjoyed by millions in India, masala chai, a spiced, sweetened black tea mixed with milk, is now popular around the world. It is sold all over India by chai wallahs, or tea vendors, who pour the tea from big kettles into small cups. Americans have incorrectly shortened the name to chai (which means simply “milk tea”); masala refers to the combination of spices, which often includes cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper, fennel, and star anise. Although there are many chai blends available in supermarkets, making your own is quick and satisfying, and the results are much better.

Watch Executive editor John “Doc” Willoughby demonstrate this comforting drink.
  • 10 green cardamom pods, cracked, seeds removed, and pods discarded, or 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds or ground cardamom
  • 1 (1 1/2-inch) piece cinnamon stick
  • 4 peppercorns (preferably white)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups water
  • 5 teaspoons loose orange pekoe tea or other black tea
  • Equipment:

    a mortar and pestle or an electric coffee/spice grinder
  • Grind together cardamom, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and fennel seeds with mortar and pestle or coffee/spice grinder.
  • Bring milk just to a simmer in a 2-qt heavy saucepan. Stir or whisk in brown sugar, ground spice mixture, ginger, and 1/8 tsp salt, or to taste. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes to infuse flavors.
  • Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a 1-qt saucepan, add tea, and boil 1 minute.
  • Pour tea through a fine-mesh sieve into hot milk mixture (discard tea leaves) and cook over low heat 1 minute. Stir before serving.
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