Masala chai

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Lands of the Curry Leaf

Lands of the Curry Leaf

By Peter Kuruvita

Published 2018

  • About

Masala chai is the lifeblood of India. Served in scant shot glasses from dawn until way past dusk, this beverage is EVERYWHERE you look. It’s in little makeshift cafes, sold by chai-wallahs at every bus station, train station and street corner, and brewing in every home.

I’ll never forget sitting in open-air chai shops in India, drinking creamy, ultra-sweet masala chai. Authentic chai is made with thick buffalo milk, black tea, spices and considerably too much sugar.

Many people refer to this beverage as just chai, but ‘chai’ simply means ‘tea’; not until the beautiful spices are added does it become masala chai.

Preparation 10 minutes
Cooking 10 minutes


  • 10 green cardamom pods, cracked, seeds removed; you’ll need about ½ teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 white peppercorns
  • 2 cloves
  • 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) milk
  • tablespoons light brown sugar, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon sliced fresh ginger
  • teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons good-quality tea leaves (such as Dilmah English Breakfast)


Coarsely crack the cardamom seeds, cinnamon stick, peppercorns and cloves using a mortar and pestle, or a coffee or spice grinder.

Bring the milk to a simmer in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat.

Stir or whisk in the brown sugar, ground spice mixture, fresh ginger and salt. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for up to 3 minutes to infuse the flavours. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring 500 ml (17 fl oz/ 2 cups) water to the boil. Add the tea and boil for 1 minute.

Pour the tea through a fine-mesh sieve into the hot milk mixture, discarding the tea leaves. Cook over low heat for 1 minute.

Strain the mixture again to remove the ginger. Stir before serving.