Homemade Chai.

Wait! Wait! This recipe is good, but I've improved on it in recent years. My new recipe is here. And I highly recommend it.


I started making chai when I was 16. My best friend's mom Usha always seemed to have a fresh pot on the stove. (This was before coffee shops and grocery stores picked up on chai and it became a overly-sweet Americanized packaged beverage. It was completely unprecedented to my palate.) I was obsessed

I asked her to share her recipe and she laughed. Recipe? There was of course no recipe, but she made one up to give me a jumping off point.


In the twenty years that have since elapsed that recipe has morphed and unraveled to a new point of no-recipeness. In fact, the photo at the top is rather pale for chai because the batch I had on hand to photograph was made with Nettle leaf instead of black tea. 

But I digress. 

I've done for you what Usha did for me. I made up a recipe to give you a jumping off point for your own journey. There are countless different ways to make chai. This is just my version (thank you, Usha!).




Homemade Chai

2 tsp Cardamon seeds or 2 T cardamon pods

1/2 tsp whole peppercorns

1/2 tsp cloves

1" x 2" piece of fresh ginger, smashed with the butt end of your biggest knife's handle (in a pinch you can substitute 1 scant tsp dried ginger)

1-2 cinnamon sticks


Bring 6 C water to a boil with the spices. Cover and simmer for 10 – 20 minutes, depending on how spicy you like your chai.

Add 6 black tea bags (or see variation below for kid and mama friendly Nettle Chai). 

Remove from heat and steep for 10 minutes. 

Remove tea bags. At this point you can strain the tea, though I often leave the spices in (I like my chai well spiced). You can add milk to the whole pot (approximately 4 C) and warm gently. I often make a big batch and then just heat the milk separately. This way the tea can stay on the stove all day without getting funky. 


Sweeten with honey (my favorite in the variation below), agave (my favorite with black tea), or sugar.

Nettle Chai Variation

As an alternative to black tea, I just stumbled upon this chai recipe that replaces the black tea with nettles and raspberry leaf. Nettle is a fabulous source of calcium and minerals and a great cleansing herb. Raspberry leaf is a wonderful tonic for pregnant and nursing mothers. And both are local and free if you pick your own. A great way to fulfill your chai craving without the caffeine.


Omit black tea, adding instead 1/2 C dried nettle and 1/3 c raspberry leaf (or more of just one if you don't have both). Proceed as above.

Take your pick. Both are lovey!