I realized in the years I've been working on this tea party of a blog, I have yet to explain how I make a cup of Indian style chai. It's unfussy and will totally transport you to a roadside chai walla (vendor) scene, complete with a tarp roof, roaring gas tank-fueled fire, giant steel pots, plenty of fresh milk and an elaborate pouring technique. 5 Rupees to bliss. 
"Chai" just means tea in India - it's the ubiquitous, catch all term for any combination of black tea, milk and spices. Every granny and walla has a slightly different ratio of the above items, so don't take my "recipe" too literally. Chai is the ultimate riff -- it's infinitely flexible and leaves room for what you have in your pantry and what your preferences are. Any way you slice it, once you've mastered a steaming cuppa chai, it can be hard to go back to a simple cup of tea. Adding fresh warming spices to a milky brew adds another layer of flavor you cannot get in a "chai mix" or a blend of teas. A strong tiny cup of chai is just the thing for a chilly winter's day or a game of cards while wearing your curlers, as you do.
Leela's Chai Tea 
serves 2

1 cup milk
1 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks
8 cardamon pods, lightly crushed
1 vanilla bean, cut into 1" pieces
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons black loose leaf tea

 In a small sauce pot, heat the milk and water to a boil. Add all other ingredients, decrease heat to simmer, put a lid on the pot and let steep for 4 minutes. Make sure you've warmed some cups (I love traditional tiffin tea cups for this) with boiling water. Once the timer dings, strain the tea mixture immediately into the warmed cups. Enjoy with a small cookie or little sweety.


  1. You are gorgeous even in curlers! Love, love your chai tea recipe Leela and I can't wait to make it. xoxo Karista

  2. Karista is right--you make curlers look good!
    I'm a big chai fan as well (the blend from Imperial Tea Court in SF is my favorite in the US, though perhaps I should try making my own). My friend who married into an Indian family sometimes adds a leaf or two of crumpled fresh mint to the finished cup, which is a nice touch.
    Drinking my chai, thinking of you! xox

  3. That photo is the best! And this recipe looks awesome too. God, I love Chai tea.

  4. Oh yum! Now I don't have to count on my neighbour to make me some!

  5. I'm not usually a fan of "chai" tea (you know, from Starbucks and the like), but I think I would love this recipe. Going to try it soon! :) xo, Julie |

  6. My husband is from Kerala, South India and this looks just like his recipe! It's soooo much better than the coffee shop version, and much healthier. We've never used vanilla, but it sounds nice. The spice combination is varies a lot by regional. We also add one star of anise and 3 or 4 cloves to the pot. In the north fresh ginger and saffron are common as well. All that to say, experimenting with flavors is a great idea, and a very Indian concept :)

  7. Tried this recipe with almond milk and it was delicious! Definitely a keeper.

  8. gorgeous photos and recipe, I would love to reblog it!

  9. That looks delicious!! Thanks for sharing the recipe..Love it

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