Chai (pronounced with a long “I”) is an Indian tradition. Black tea, milk, spices, and sweeteners are blended for a creamy and strong drink.

Chai, which means tea in many countries, is a drink staple in . There are hundreds of variations regionally and even more among individuals. The basic ingredients are tea, milk, and a sweetener. To this mix, several spices are added, including cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, peppercorns, and star anise.

Traditionally, the spices are boiled and then steeped together with black tea. After the mixture is strained, sweetener and milk are added just before serving to develop the distinctive taste. The drink is served hot or cold. It’s similar to a latte and often called chai masala, meaning spiced tea.

The term “chai” refers more to the method of preparation than to which type of tea is selected.


Chai is marketed almost worldwide as a powdered mix or spice and tea blend. It is also available in specialty shops made with fresh whole milk and can be found pre-bottled. Sometimes green tea or ginseng are substituted for black tea leaves.

As the interest in chai has increased, other flavor blends have been developed with emphasis on chocolate, stronger herbs, organic ingredients, sugar-free, caffeine-free, and low-fat.

Storage Tips

Pre-made or homemade chai should be refrigerated and used within one week. Add milk just before serving.

Usage Tips

Before preparing chai from a bag, shake gently to redistribute the spices.

Many other spices and herbs can be used, including allspice, coriander, cumin, lemon grass, licorice, nutmeg, and vanilla.

The strength of chai can be controlled by the length of tea steeping time.

Instead of granulated sugar, use molasses or honey and substitute creamer for milk.

For a slightly thicker mix, simmer the sugar with the spices first, then add the tea for brewing. Milk is always added last.

Try one of our favorite chai recipes:

Indian Chai Tea