I fell in love with masala chai when I travelled to India. When I had tried it before in England it never tasted like very much to me, except sugar and milk. Actually, I rarely see masala chai latte in coffee shops, most of the time it's just chai latte. So when I tried the real thing in India it was a revelation.
This chai latte gives you complete control over your chai latte experience, from the tea and the spices, to the sweetener and type of milk. The result is a creamy cup of black tea subtly spiced and fragrant with cinnamon, black pepper, and ginger, and just the right amount of sweetness, so near perfect that you’ll skip the coffee shop chai and come home to make a pot of this at tea time.
The Best Tea for Chai Latte
Loose-leaf black tea is best for brewing chai for lattes. Ideally, it is made with an Assam or Ceylon tea, but English Breakfast or other black tea blends work wonderfully too. Loose-leaf tea is generally of a higher quality than bags, with large pieces and less dust, which can lead to bitter or tannic tea. Since we have to strain out the spices before making our chai latte anyway, bagged tea would be no time-saver here.
If you really want to save time, have a look at my blend 'Masala Chai', click below.
Selecting Spices for Chai Latte
Spices are what make masala chai the drink we love. When it comes to which spices are essential, very few can agree and I’d argue that that is a very good thing indeed. The spices you choose will make a chai perfectly suited to your tastes.
These are the five spices that are essential to making a warming chai latte.
Green cardamom: Cardamom is one of the most well-rounded spices we know. This is the one spice you cannot skip when making chai at home. Buy whole pods, rather than seed, and crack them gently before steeping.
Cloves: Some might consider cloves optional, but they work so well with the other spices here, playing up the sweetness of cinnamon and the spice of the black pepper while perfuming the whole pot of tea.
Cinnamon stick: Cinnamon is one of the sweeter spices used for flavouring chai. Use sticks in the pot, but feel free to garnish the latte with a touch of ground cinnamon for a beautiful and fragrant finish.
Fresh ginger: I supposed you could use whole dried ginger in chai as well, but it is usually harder to find. Besides, fresh ginger adds a nice, fresh spiciness.
Black peppercorns: This everyday spice cannot be skipped when making chai; it gives the brew the heat that blooms on the back of our throats and balances the chai’s sweetness.
Sweetening Chai Lattes
I find that a too-sweet chai latte masks the spices and I don't usually sweeten my teas but a chai without sugar is not really a chai. You can use granulated sugar for sweetening, but I recommend brown sugar or even maple syrup, as their caramel notes accentuate chai’s spices rather than hide them. Add your sweetener to the warm tea base after steeping but before straining.
How to Froth Milk for Any Latte
You’ve brewed, spiced, and sweetened your tea, and now you must froth your milk — unless you’d rather have a classic cup of chai rather than a chai latte. The problem? You don’t own an espresso machine or a frothing wand. Luckily there are three clever ways you can froth your milk for lattes.
Whisk it: You can vigorously whisk your milk while heating it on the stovetop. This method works best with 2% dairy milk and coconut milk.
Blend it: You can also froth the milk with an immersion blender before heating the milk in a saucepan on the stovetop. This method is best for non-dairy milks, like soy or almond milk, but also works with coconut milk, whole milk, or 2%.
Shake it: The other method is to shake the milk in a jar and then heat the milk post-frothing. This method works especially well with whole milk and nut milks.
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
- 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
- 10 whole cloves
- 6 green cardamom pods, cracked
- 4 cups water
- 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons loose-leaf black tea, or 6 black tea bags
- 1/2 cup sweetener, such as brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup (optional)
- 3 cups cold whole milk, coconut milk, or other non-dairy milk
Toast the spices. Place the cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves, and cardamom in a small saucepan over medium heat and toast, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes.
Brew the tea. Add the water and ginger and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Steep the tea. Remove from the heat and add the loose-leaf tea or tea bags. Cover and steep for 10 minutes.
Sweeten the tea. While the tea is still warm, add the sweetener and stir until combined or dissolved.
Strain the tea. Strain the tea through a fine-mesh strainer into a pitcher or teapot. Discard the spices and tea leaves. Store in the refrigerator for future use, or keep it warm while you froth the milk.
Froth the milk. For whole milk, froth the milk by shaking it in a jar or by whisking it vigorously over medium-high heat. For non-dairy milks, use an immersion blender to froth before heating.
Heat the milk. Heat the frothed milk in a small saucepan over low heat until warm.
Serve. Pour 3/4 cup of the warm tea base into each mug. Add 1/2 cup of warmed milk and stir to combine. Top with a heaping spoonful of milk froth.
MY TOP TIP
Make ahead: The tea base can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Gently reheat before frothing the milk.
Check out my blend Masala Chai 👇 As you can see on this picture, it's also great enjoyed without milk!