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Contrary to popular belief, an oh-too-sweet chai latte at Starbucks is really not the same as a cup of home-brewed “masala” chai, which is what I grew up drinking in India.  At tea-time, my mother’s kitchen in Bombay simmered with a brew of warming spices like cardamom, cinnamon and pepper that made milk taste like nectar.

Today, I find chai to be a tasty, balancing brew that’s perfect for a cold winter day – and best of all, it is really not that hard to make.  But just like all things in life that are worthwhile, it requires focus, presence and a little bit of time – oh yeah, and the anticipation of deliciousness!

Here’s my favourite Ayurvedic Chai Recipe (as seen on Urban Rush on December 6, 2010)

Whole Cardamom Pods – 6 to 7
Whole Black Peppercorns – 4 to 5
Cinnamon – ½ “ stick
Cloves – 2 or 3
Fennel – few seeds
Star Anise – optional 1 pod
Fresh Ginger – ¼ “ grated or thinly slicked
2 – 3 cups water
Organic milk – 2 cups or Organic Almond Milk if you’re vegan or milk intolerant
Tea – Robust English Breakfast or Assam Tea –  4 tsp
Roiboos tea is a nice option if you prefer to drink a de-caf version of chai, and Green Tea works well too for a milder taste.

To make:

Crush the spices in a mortar and pestle.  Add spices to ginger and water and bring to a boil.  Upon boiling, let simmer for 10 minutes at least ten minutes.  Add milk, let simmer for five minutes more.  Finally add tea-leaves, bring to a rolling boil.  Strain and serve.  You can add pure maple syrup, raw, organic sugar or a bit of agave nectar to sweeten.  The sweetness helps bring out the flavor of the spices.

Serve in small tea cups with a garnish of a pinch of freshly ground cardamom or cinnamon powder.


For spices, I prefer using organic, non-irradiated spices: Whole Foods / Capers or any organic grocery store should have them.  I also love shopping at the South China Seas Trading Company on Granville Island.

For tea, try the perfect blends at The Urban Tea Merchant, now with a new downtown location.

And if you’re just itching for some home-made chai that you didn’t slave over yourself, my favourite chai in the city is still at East is East with locations in Kitsilano and on South Main.  However, here, I recommend tasting a sample first, as the chai varies each day.

Do you have a favourite chai recipe?  Please feel free to post it here!