Masala Chai

I make this so often, I thought it’s about time I shared my favourite recipe for this spiced tea.

Pedantic hour: ignore Starbucks and all other coffee chains who call it ‘chai’. ‘Chai’ means ‘tea’ – that is, black tea. Milk and sugar optional but highly recommended. ‘Masala’ means ‘spice’ so ‘masala chai’ is what’s often confused with ‘chai’ or called a ‘chai tea latte’ (don’t even get me started).

This tea is best had in cold weather, or when you’re feeling a bit ill/cold/in need of a pick-me-up. I have friends who swear by a shot of single malt in their masala chai, but I’ve never been brave enough to do it – too much of a stick-in-the-mud I guess!

The photos are courtesy of my friend and former editor-in-chief Stephanie Sprague (proof that my recipe works!) Stephanie is a qualified yoga instructor who has taken the chance to make her passion a full-time career – lucky! She posts frequently about, in her words, “no dogma, no mumbo jumbo”, free-flowing yoga. Check out her inspirational Facebook page and blog! Stephanie also offers classes – even over Skype, which I would highly recommend!


1.5 tsp fennel seeds

6 green cardamom pods

6 whole cloves

2 sticks cinnamon

thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and crushed (include the skins, they’re packed with flavour and anti-oxidants)

2 cups milk*

1/4 cup sugar*

6 black tea bags*

* This ratio works for me, but you will need to find one that fits with the way you like black tea. Masala chai is basically black tea made according to your taste, with spices added at the right time.*

Heat a saucepan over medium-high. In it, toast the fennel seeds, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon until lightly toasted and fragrant, roughly 1–2 minutes.

You can either let it cook and grind the spices, or leave them whole and strain at the end. I prefer to leave them whole since the toasting will already have released the essential oils and aromas, plus I usually make this when I’m ill, and the last thing I want to do then is phaff with grinding spices.

Courtesy Stephanie Sprague, 'Move Within Yoga'
Courtesy Stephanie Sprague, ‘Move Within Yoga’

Add the fresh ginger, tea bags and roughly 4 cups of water, and steep the tea – it should simmer, not boil. This is a classic mistake everyone makes – treat it like you would a giant batch of tea! Keep it at a gentle simmer, which will release the lovely aromas and health properties of your spices, without making the tea too bitter.

Stir in milk and sugar to taste. Once the tea has brewed for long enough – again, depends completely on taste! – remove, strain into glasses or mugs and serve hot!

Enjoy! Tell me how it went 🙂

Courtesy Stephanie Sprague, 'Move Within Yoga'
Courtesy Stephanie Sprague, ‘Move Within Yoga’


  1. I can’t believe I’ve been ordering “tea” tea. I’ll be hunting for these spices. Thank you for the post, and another lesson in the awful way America tends to use foreign language falsely.


  2. I’ve never heard of heating the spices first – makes a lot of sense though. I’ll have to try it next time! Thank you for the post.


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