5 Ingredients or Fewer

Cardamom Chai

April 19, 2010
4 Ratings
  • Makes about 5 cups, serves 2 to 4
Author Notes

As a drinker of purebred coffees and teas, I was skeptical about chai and its maelstrom of spices, its blast of sugar. I lumped chai drinkers in with owners of tiny, transportable dogs and wearers of miniskirts with UGGs (full disclosure: I almost bought a pair last year. Almost.)

Then, a few years ago, I was writing about Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford, who had just published Mangoes & Curry Leaves. And there in their book was a recipe for Cardamom Chai. I was surprised by the ingredients, which were nothing more than milk, Assam tea, freshly crushed cardamom and sugar. Their chai recipe is one they modeled on Indian chai shops, and is made by boiling the tea for a minute or so before whisking in a cardamom-infused milk and a whisper of sugar. I gave it a try and it soon became not only a personal addiction but a favorite household pick-me-up when our kids were toddlers and the afternoons were long. When I’d call my friend Elyse to set up a playdate, she’d ask, “Are you making the chai?” Before you know it, I may be buying a miniature dog. —Amanda Hesser

What You'll Need
  • About 6 cups water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Seeds from 1 green cardamom pod, ground
  • 2 heaping tablespoons black tea leaves, preferably strong-tasting Assam tea
  • 2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste
  1. Heat the water to a boil. In a separate pan, heat the milk to a boil, stir in the cardamom, cover, and set aside.
  2. Place the tea leaves in a heavy pot. Pour in a little of the hot water, then pour it off. Add the remaining hot water. Place over medium heat, bring to a boil, and boil for about 30 seconds, then pour the tea through a strainer into a pot.
  3. Add the hot milk by pouring it through a cloth-lined strainer into the tea. Add the sugar and stir. If you wish to froth the tea, pour the mixture into another pot, then pour it back, continuing until it's frothy.
  4. Place the pot back over the heat and bring the tea almost to the boil, then pour it into cups.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Mary
  • farmerknitter
  • AntoniaJames
  • Luisa Weiss
    Luisa Weiss
  • Amanda Hesser
    Amanda Hesser
Amanda Hesser

Recipe by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.

16 Reviews

Dominique October 27, 2023
Love this recipe, I'm with you on the dubious front but sold here. However, here's a lazy version for desperate times: A large mug. Boiling water over two sachets of Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice (a fave since high school when we thought it was so sophisticated!) Runamok cardamom infused maple syrup (and if you haven't discovered Runamok, pleasure in store.) Lots of milk. Top it off with a caramel from those adorable goats at Big Picture Farm...Thanks for a delightful break! d
Mary May 21, 2016
Thanks Amanda. I will try it with ginger.
Mary May 18, 2016
Would like to try this but cardamom is expensive in Jamaica where I live - will have to wait until I return to the US to buy it. Any suggestions where I can get the fresh one? I use a lot of fresh ginger in all my teas and also coffee - addicted to ginger.
Amanda H. May 21, 2016
Hi Mary, I've never seen fresh cardamom for sale -- you could definitely make this with ginger though.
farmerknitter March 10, 2013
what about that fancy tea strainer on the cup? beautiful! do you know where one might get one like it?
Amanda H. March 10, 2013
It's from Ted Muehling -- see the second slide here: http://www.tedmuehling.com/objects.html
farmerknitter March 10, 2013
AntoniaJames April 16, 2012
This works really well with green tea, too! I was never that crazy about cardamom until I tried this. Just love it. ;o)
irish2heart November 4, 2011
"Pour in a little of the hot water, then pour it off." I have never heard of this, how much water and why do you do this?
Kitchen B. August 24, 2013
'To rinse' the leaves, I guess. However, in Moroccan mint tea culture, you brew the leaves, but the first 'wetting of the leaves isnt discarded. It's saved, and is considered the essence of the tea. The second 'water'/brew is swirled around and then poured off - it is considered as 'cleaning'. The first, reserved liquid is put back in the teapot and then more water is added.

See http://www.kitchenbutterfly.com/2013/05/29/travel-by-plate-tales-of-moroccan-mint-tea/
Amanda H. August 24, 2013
Thanks Kitchen Butterfly, and irish2heart, you can definitely skip the pouring off step if you like.
Luisa W. June 4, 2010
That mortar and pestle is (are?) stunning. Where can I find the set? Also, thrilled to try this recipe, will make some this afternoon for my pick-me-up.
Amanda H. June 6, 2010
I got mine from The Gardener in Berkeley, but they no longer carry it. Here's the link to the designer -- http://www.johnjuliandesign.com/ Hope you enjoyed the recipe!
Amanda H. April 19, 2010
Thank you -- I'm addicted, as well.
shayma April 19, 2010
i have tea w cardamom every morning- couldnt live w/o it. i like how you drain the water off initially- i learnt that from a lady in a chinese tea house in San Francisco.
Amanda H. April 19, 2010
oops -- meant that in reply to you: Thank you -- I'm addicted, as well.