Since arriving in China I have found conversation inevitably drifts to talking about what kinds of foods and dishes people missed from home. Chai tea is something that has come up quite a few times. My colleague drinks a Chai masala tea mix in the morning, and it makes the office smell “happy.” I have to admit that I have asked for a Chai tea latte at the Starbucks a few times in Beijing, but no such luck. When Chai tea latte is available at Starbucks, I ask on hot summer days for a “frappuccino Chai tea.” It will blow your minds! Of course, Starbucks Chai tea latte has got nothing on homemade Chai tea.

Masala Chai literally means “mixed spice tea.” It is a flavored tea beverage with a mixture of Indian spices and herbs. The way people make Chai can differ widely per region and country. There has been a growth in interest in Chai all over the world, and I have tried many recipes myself. It warms the soul, and the house will smell delicious. I did not invent Chai tea myself (though I wish I did), but did put together this recipe. Different spices can be used, of course, and creativity is encouraged. Not everybody will agree with my way, but hopefully, we can have some exchange of recipes. If you like an ingredient, add extra, if you dislike an ingredient, omit it.

Where and how to find the ingredients in Beijing: fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, and are all available at most domestic supermarkets, while others such as nutmeg, vanilla extract, and cloves may only be available at import stores or online platforms. Cardamom pods can be found at the Sanyuanli market. Teabags shouldn't be hard to come by, but I like to use extra strong teabags if I can find them because I like my Chai with an extra bit of kick. That being said, any kind of black tea will do. Before I add the tea bags, I keep some of the liquid aside so I can offer some to my toddler with milk.

Chai Tea Recipe

  • 1L water
  • 500ml milk
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 10 cloves
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • fresh ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 sliced piece of fresh ginger root
  • 1/3 cup honey


  • Bring the water to a boil. Add all the dried spices and fresh ginger. Turn down to a simmer and let simmer for 30 min. Boiling the spices will turn the liquid bitter.
  • Add the milk and bring back up to a boil, and immediately turn off the heat.
  • Add the tea bags and let steep to whichever strength desired.
  • Strain the mixture. Add honey to taste.
  • Drink warm or over ice.

Et voila! You're own delicious mug of pick-me-up chai tea. 


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