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Basic chai

The flavored chai recipes that follow are all based on this recipe. It’s best to use loose-leaf tea, but a good brand of tea bag will also work. Choose a strong, black tea like English Breakfast, not a floral variety like Darjeeling.

Makes 2 cups

  • 1½ cups water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 heaped teaspoons loose-leaf black tea or 2 tea bags
  • ½ cup low-fat or whole milk

Start with a clean saucepan with a lid; reserve this pan for making chai only. (This is to ensure that your tea doesn’t accidentally taste of garlic.) Bring the water and sugar to a boil. Add the tea, let it boil for 2 seconds, and remove from the heat. Cover and steep until the tea leaves have settled to the bottom, from 3 to 5 minutes. Some teas are stronger than others and need less steeping time; you will have to experiment with your brand. Meanwhile, bring the milk to a boil. You may use the microwave; just remember it is essential that the milk be heated to boiling for best results.

Strain the tea into cups and add enough milk to make the tea a creamy orange color—about ¼ cup of milk per cup of chai. Serve immediately.

TIP: Here’s a trick I learned from my father, pour the hot milk into your cup of tea from a height of at least 6 inches; the froth makes a very attractive presentation.

Cardamom chai
Using the flat side of a knife blade or the bottom of a small bowl, crush 2 cardamom pods. Add them—seeds, peel, and all—to the boiling water. Proceed with the Basic Chai recipe above.

Ginger chai
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Rinse a 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, rubbing off any dirt or black spots with your fingers; you don’t need to peel it. Lightly crush the ginger with a kitchen mallet and add to the boiling water. Continue boiling until the total amount of water is reduced to 1½ cups, about 5 minutes. Proceed with the Basic Chai recipe above.

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