DIY chai

1-1/2 qt.    |   
Prep Time:
5 minutes    |   
Cook Time:
10 minutes

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My crafty friend Renee stores the base for homemade chai  in her fridge then either heats it or leaves it cool, combines it with milk and sweetens it to taste. When she shared this recipe with me, she wrote, “These are all approximations and a person could add more or fewer of each of the ingredients according to taste. I have found, though, that with this proportion of ingredients, no one ingredient sticks out and it makes for a great tea.” Couldn’t say it better myself.


5 to 8 cardamom pods
1 to 3 star anise, optional
2 or 3 cinnamon sticks (3″ long)
10 (palmful) black peppercorns
10 (palmful) whole cloves
pinch fennel seeds, optional
1- to 2-inch cube fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

tea (see note below)
milk (any %)
sugar, honey or agave


To make the chai base, fill a 2-quart saucepan two-thirds full with water (or put 5-1/2 cups water in a medium saucepan). Cut or smash open the cardamom pods so the seeds can disperse while boiling and give the tea more flavor. Throw cardamom, star anise, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, cloves, fennel seeds (if using), ginger and tea into the pot and bring to a good boil for about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let steep for about 5 minutes, then strain through a fine sieve into a large measuring cup and serve hot, or let cool then pour into a jar with a lid and place in the fridge.

To drink hot, scald desired amount of milk in a pot over medium-high heat (I like equal parts milk and chai base). When milk is steaming, whisk it or insert an electric frother to make it foamy. Add chai base (reheat if necessary) and sweeten to taste.

If you are going to drink it cold, make sure the base is cool enough so that the ice doesn’t dilute it and make it watery-tasting, which will ruin it. Combine chai base and cold milk in a glass and sweeten to taste. Add ice.

note: Renee uses 1 bag decaf black tea and 1 bag regular black tea so she “can drink it in the afternoon and not be up at 1 a.m.” She also advises, “Obviously, if a person wants a fuller-bodied tea, it’s better to use caffeinated tea and maybe more than two bags. I use PG Tips, but any black tea would work. I have heard people use green tea, but I haven’t done that.” If you want to use loose tea, I recommend about 2 heaping spoonfuls for the amount of water here, but again…that can vary depending on how strong you like it.