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Chai, version 2.0

Okay, I think this is an improvement over version 1.0 of my chai recipe. While the spices still need optimization (i.e., to attain southern Indian resto quality), it is better. Part of what greatly helps is the use of evaporated milk (but not sweetened condensed). You might ask, “Why not use fresh whole milk, rather than that?” I rarely have other uses for whole milk, so I rarely purchase it. But cans of evaporated milk, ah, those can sit around for a long time! O:-) And, yes, I do enjoy its creamy flavor.

chai in froggie teacup

Another major change is to no longer boil the tea leaves, which often resulted in something unpleasantly astringent. It might look pale, but make no mistake, the tea really does not need more time to steep! Yet another tip is to avoid powdered spices, especially ginger, since those tend to yield a cuppa that’s either too flat or too bitter.

After testing some spices one at a time, I also ended up simplifying the spice list… somewhat. No more cloves: they just added a medicinal bitterness which couldn’t be either enjoyed or remedied by more sugar. Too much cinnamon makes the chai too tart — although that might be because I use the softer, fruitier Sri Lankan / Mexican variety. Even the aniseed failed to impart the characteristic anise-y flavor (still too tart!); star anise, on the other hand, succeeds quite accurately. Moreover, peppercorns or allspice are optional, if I’m in the mood for a peppery edge.

This makes enough to serve 2 people. Or one very thirsty person in need of spicy warmth and caffeination.


  • 1 3/4 to 2 cups water
  • 3 to 4 heaping teaspoons of green cardamom pods, crushed open to expose the seeds
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger, roughly minced
  • 1 to 2 inches of cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole star anise
  • (optional) 5 to 10 whole black peppercorns
  • (optional) 2 to 4 whole allspice
  • 2 to 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 can (12 ounces, i.e., 1 1/2 cups) low fat (2%) evaporated milk
  • 2 heaping teaspoons tea; or the contents of 2 to 3 teabags. Again, I recommend a strong black tea from India or Sri Lanka, such as Assam or Ceylon.


  1. In a non-reactive saucepan, bring the water and spices to a boil, and let simmer covered for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the sugar, and stir to dissolve it.
  3. Stir in the evaporated milk. Allow it to come to a foamy boil initially — while trying to avoid spilling onto the stovetop. (Vigilance! Remove the lid and/or lower the heat if dairy volcanism appears imminent.) Allow to simmer for another 5 minutes, with lid ajar.
  4. Remove from heat. Stir in the tea. Steep covered for about 4 minutes.
  5. Serve; add more sugar, if you want.

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