A rich cup of chai, blended with just the right spices, is a beautiful thing. Learning how to brew chai tea at home with the right balance of black tea, spices, milk and honey gives you the tools to recreate your coffee shop favorites on demand.
There’s no single right answer for how to prepare chai tea, but we’ll aim to give you everything you need to create your own ideal blended milk chai using a few simple rules.
It all comes down to making a concentrated tea brew and combining it with the cream and sweetener of your choice. This way, you won’t dilute the flavor of your spices and tea. Your spice blend might change with the seasons, but the most important ingredient is the tea itself.
Start with good tea, and you’ll have a great chai latte.
What is Chai? Where Does it Come From?
The word “chai” just means tea, but for many of us, it evokes a creamy and spiced chai latte. The Yuan Dynasty inspired the modern English and Indian milk tea tradition that grew into the chai latte of today. Should you put milk in chai? Milk tea is nearly as old as tea itself - do what tastes best to you!
Making Chai Tea: How to Craft Your Own Blend
Ready to make your own spice blend for the perfect chai? It’s all about balance!
When you start, every spice has its own smell, but a successful blend comes together to form something new - an integrated sensation that exceeds its parts. The freshness and origin of your spices will make a huge difference to proportion, so take the time to source good ingredients and experiment with proportions!
After years of working to find the perfect spice blend to complement our favorite chocolatey black tea, we created our Auburn chai spice recipe. Our blend includes over 15 different spices, including unique “secret” additions like saffron and tulsi.
- AUBURN chai spice
This spiced chai herbal tisane is a blend of cinnamon, ginger, black peppercorn, tulsi, dandelion root, cardamom, goji berry, fennel, elderberry, cacao nibs, burdock, galangal, clove, saffron, vanilla, and hinoki cypress oil.
This is chai spice after a fifth voyage around the world, having picked up inspiration at every stop along the way - finally world-weary and ready to set up as a hermit deep in a Hinoki Cypress forest and enjoy the balance it could only pick up with sixteen ingredients acting together in just the right way.
Brew this on its own, or add your favorite tea - a roasted oolong, like a rich Wuyi oolong, or Laoshan black tea. Give the blend even fuller texture with a touch of honey.
Classic Chai Spice Recommendations
For a basic chai spice, start with the classic spices below and balance them to your liking. They are listed in recommended order from the most to least by weight, so include more of the spices at the top (cinnamon, ginger) and less of the spices at the bottom (peppercorn, clove).
How to Choose a Base Tea for Your Chai
The best base tea for a spice chai blend needs to taste great on its own!
For best results, a loose leaf chai tea base should have flavor that stands out even with milk, and it should be rich enough to bring together all the spices. A chai tea base should not be bitter or drying. Blended chai isn’t about covering up your tea; it's about your tea boosting the spices, the milk, and the honey.
Some of our favorite teas for chai include:
- 2021 Autumn Laoshan Black
The new 2021 Autumn harvest is here!
This relatively new tea is fed by sweet mountain spring water and oxidized in the sun for three days before finishing to bring out signature chocolate notes. Mr. He perfected this tea as a proud reflection of the bold Shandong spirit and the perseverance of Laoshan Village. Laoshan Black is a labor of love to prove to the world how wonderful teas from Northern China can be. The cold weather, and pure mountain springs come together for a microclimate that yields some of the sweetest and most chocolatey black tea in China with a unique and distinctly northern flavor.
- 2014 Loose Gong Ting Shu
Qianjiazhai Gong Ting Shu Pu'er is still a very new practice, made only by one of Master Zhou's students in the cooperative. Using the giant buds of Qianjiazhai's wild trees between 100 and three hundred years of age, this tea is carefully and slowly pile fermented to bring out a deep rich sweetness unlike any other shu pu'er out there. Master Zhou was so excited by this experiment he is sharing the technique across the cooperative and encourage more members to keep developing the craft.
- 2020 Qianjiazhai Hand Fired BlackThe Dongsa cooperative wild-forages the leaves for their hand-fired black tea from trees well over one hundred years old, growing on the cool high elevation slopes of the Ailao National Forest Preserve. The biodiversity and well established root stock makes for deeply nuanced and complex tea, normally reserve for pressing and aging as sheng pu’er. This experimental offering is a new project by the cooperative to hand fire over low heat in a wok for a more classic Dian Hong style. The application of heat makes this more closely related to other Yunnan Black, and indeed it shares a rich sweet potato thickness similar to our Yunnan Golden Fleece, but with Qianjiazhai’s signature tulsi complexity and touches of citrus, and florals.
How to Brew Chai Tea Step-By-Step
Wondering how long to steep chai tea or how to prepare chai tea with milk? Let’s get brewing! The best way to prepare chai tea helps you keep a rich, strong brew that still comes out creamy and balanced.
Brewing Chai - Step by Step
Step 1: Prep Ingredients
Before you begin, you’ll need your base tea (we use Laoshan Black), your chai spice (we use the Auburn blend), sweetener and milk. Honey and almond milk work very well, but you can adjust based on your preferences.
You’ll also need a pot, a strainer, a heat proof bowl and a measuring cup to hone your ratios.
Step 2: Get the Chai Cooking
You want your chai tea brewing temperature to be a full boil. Use one cup of water per 12oz mug serving (the rest of the liquid will be milk). Add 5 grams of chai spice for every cup of water.
To brew two 12oz mug servings, heat 2C of water to boiling, then add 10g of chai spice.
Cover and simmer for ten minutes.
Step 3: Add Your Base Tea
Next, add 8 grams of your base chai tea leaves per cup of water.
Allow to simmer gently for two minutes, and remove from heat. Allow the pot to sit for four more minutes while the leaves steep.
To brew two 12oz mug servings, add 15g of tea leaves to the simmering spice mix.
Step 4: Strain Your Tea
Pour the entire mixture through a strainer into another pot or heat proof bowl.
Step 5: Add Milk and Honey
For an ideal chai tea to milk ratio, add ¼ cup milk per cup of chai base and bring the liquid to a low simmer before serving. Add honey to taste.
• Almond milk is a tasty dairy alternative
• Heavy cream makes the most traditional chai
• Coconut milk is a rich alternative
Cooking With Chai: A Slight Brewing Variation
Want a powerful chai concentrate you can add to other hot drinks, use in baked goods, desserts or even cocktails? With a few adjustments you can make a double-strength concentrate to keep in the refrigerator for all your favorites.
The trick? More tea and spices with longer brew times:
• Boil 2 cups of water, add 15g of chai spice blend and simmer for 30 minutes
• Add 15-20g of base tea, simmer with the spice mix for another 4 minutes, allow to infuse off the heat 8 minutes
• Strain, then add 2 ½ tbs of honey while the concentrate is still warm. Do not add milk
• Use immediately, refrigerate for later use, or freeze into chai ice cubes
Serve with your favorite milk at a 2:1 ratio milk to concentrate, or use as an ingredient in cocktails and mocktails, poured over ice cream, and more.
Makes two cups of extra strong concentrate. If sealed and refrigerated, use within one week. If frozen, use within one month.