Desi Chai
Desi Chai
5 from 23 votes
This classic desi chai is enjoyed by Indians and Pakistanis everywhere. Served by tea vendors, known as chai wallas, this desi tea is sure to be popular with everyone.
Desi Chai

Desi Chai – the mere mention of this beloved beverage evokes memories of lazy afternoons, heart-warming conversations, and that familiar rich aroma that fills the air. But where did this iconic drink begin its journey?

While tracing the exact origin of “Desi Chai” can be a bit murky, many believe its roots are deeply embedded in the Indian subcontinent. Over time, the classic recipe has seen countless tweaks and adjustments as it travelled across regions and cultures.

Yet, its essence has remained unchanged. It’s a drink that has bridged cultural divides, making its way into countless homes worldwide.

Making Desi Chai might appear deceptively simple, but it’s all about precision and patience. Some may consider it a beginner-level recipe, but trust me, it’s the attention to detail that sets a perfect cup apart from a mediocre one.

Variations of Desi Chai are many and diverse. From the ‘Kadak Chai’, strong and potent, to the ‘Masala Chai’ filled with a myriad of spices, there’s a version for every palate. But today, we’re exploring the classic recipe that has been adored by many.

The inclusion of green cardamoms and cinnamon sticks in this recipe is not just for show. These ingredients, along with the humble tea bag, play a vital role in achieving that iconic flavour. It’s a taste that lingers, reminding you of warm hugs and comforting moments.

Now, it’s not just about the taste. The ritual of making Desi Chai, watching the water bubble, the milk rise, and the golden hue take over, it’s therapeutic. There’s a sense of anticipation that builds up, and when you finally take that first sip, it feels like everything’s right in the world.

This recipe is your ticket to experience a tradition that spans centuries. Pair it with some homemade paratha and onion pakora, and you’ve got yourself a teatime treat that’s hard to beat.

What Ingredients to Use & Why

Before diving into the heart of our Desi Chai, let’s take a moment to appreciate the ensemble of ingredients that come together to create this magical brew.

Tea Bags: At the soul of every chai is its tea. The tea bags infuse the water with a rich and deep flavour, forming the base of the Desi Chai. For a bolder flavour, you might opt for loose tea leaves.

Green Cardamoms (Elachi): Ah, the aromatic Elachi! It gives the chai its distinctive fragrant punch. Often, it’s this scent that draws people from rooms away. In case cardamom isn’t handy, cloves or star anise could be experimented with, but the classic cardamom charm is hard to replicate.

Sugar: Because every sip should have a hint of sweetness. Adjust to your taste, but remember, the sugar not only sweetens but also complements the spices. If white sugar isn’t your thing, try palm or coconut sugar.

Milk: The creaminess in your chai? That’s courtesy of the milk. It softens the robust flavours, making the chai smooth and velvety. Lactose intolerant? Fear not! Almond and oat milk are worthy alternatives that don’t compromise on the creamy texture.

Cinnamon (Dalchini): This is where the warmth comes in. Cinnamon gives the chai a spicy depth and warmth that feels like a cosy blanket on a cold day. If you’re in the mood for a twist, try a hint of nutmeg.

After a delightful exploration of each ingredient, it’s evident that every single component has its unique role in crafting the perfect cup of Desi Chai. It’s a symphony, where each ingredient plays its part to perfection.

The Time-Honoured Tradition of Desi Chai

If there’s one thing I’ve come to appreciate deeply over the years, it’s the art of making the perfect cup of Desi Chai. The rhythmic dance of spices, the careful balance of milk and water, and the patience it takes to brew everything to perfection – it’s an art form passed down through generations.

Originating from the Indian subcontinent, Desi Chai has been the morning ritual for many families, including mine. It’s not just about the taste or the warmth it offers; it’s about the memories associated with every cup.

Every household, I’ve found, has its unique version of the brew. Some like it milkier, others prefer it robust and strong. But at its core, it remains an aromatic blend of spices and tea.

As I ventured into perfecting my chai, I realized that every ingredient needs its moment to shine. From the aromatic Elachi to the warm cinnamon, each spice needs to be treated with reverence.

There’s also the all-important debate about sugar. For many, a chai without sugar is like a day without sunshine.

But for some, it’s all about the natural flavours of the spices, unmasked by the sweetness. I personally sway in favour of a hint of sugar – just enough to harmonize with the spices but not overpower them.

Pairing your Desi Chai with the right snack elevates the experience. In my home, the preferred accompaniment is often fresh parathas or spicy onion pakoras. The contrast between the spicy snacks and the warm, milky tea is, in one word, delightful.

If you’re new to this world of Desi Chai, I urge you to give it a try. Begin with the classic recipe, and then venture out, finding your unique blend. It’s a journey worth embarking upon, and trust me, once you start, there’s no turning back.

Vegan Alternatives for Your Desi Chai

Desi Chai is a classic, but what if you’re vegan? Does that mean you miss out on this delightful experience? Absolutely not! Over the years, I’ve tinkered and tested various vegan-friendly alternatives to make sure everyone can enjoy a cup of warm, spicy chai.

Let’s begin with milk, the primary concern for most vegans. Traditional Desi Chai uses whole fat milk, but fear not, there are ample alternatives available. My personal favourite? Oat milk.

Not only does it have a creamy consistency that’s quite close to dairy milk, but its subtle sweetness complements the chai spices beautifully. Almond milk is another great option. It’s nutty and rich, adding a unique flavour profile to your chai.

Sugar, the next essential component, is mostly vegan. However, to be on the safer side, especially considering that some sugars might be processed using bone char, I often opt for coconut sugar or maple syrup.

They both offer a delightful sweetness, with maple syrup giving a slightly caramelized flavour which is just divine.

Now, the spices. Thankfully, they’re all vegan and need no tweaking. But if you’re looking for an extra kick, I sometimes like to add a sliver of fresh ginger. Not only does it give the chai a beautiful zing, but ginger also boasts a plethora of health benefits.

Making chai is therapeutic, and every individual, vegan or not, should be able to indulge in this ritual. So, the next time you’re in the mood for a warm cup of chai, remember these vegan alternatives. Your taste buds, and the planet, will thank you.

The Magic Behind Choosing the Perfect Tea for Your Desi Chai

There’s an adage I’ve come to cherish: “All teas are not made equal.” This couldn’t be truer for Desi Chai. The base, the heart, the soul – it all boils down to the tea leaves used.

While many might think that any tea bag would do, I’ve embarked on a journey, and let me tell you, it’s all about selecting the right tea.

Black tea is generally the preferred choice for Desi Chai. Its robust flavour profile complements the spices perfectly. Over the years, I’ve sampled teas from various regions – Assam, Darjeeling, and Ceylon, to name a few.

Each brings its unique notes to the brew. Assam tea, with its malty flavour, creates a chai that’s rich and invigorating. On the other hand, Ceylon tea adds a citrusy touch, offering a refreshing spin.

Beyond the region, the cut of the tea leaves plays a crucial role. I’ve always leaned towards finer cuts because they release flavour more rapidly and infuse the chai with deep, bold notes.

However, while black tea is traditional, green tea offers a unique take on Desi Chai.

The result? A lighter, more delicate chai where the spices subtly dance on your palate. It’s an experimental blend, but for those seeking a twist, it’s worth the venture.

Remember, your choice of tea can elevate your chai from ordinary to extraordinary. So the next time you reach out for that tea bag or those loose leaves, think about the flavour journey you want to embark upon. After all, the magic truly begins with the right tea.

The Health Benefits That Lurk in Your Cup of Desi Chai

Whenever I brew a cup of Desi Chai, beyond the sensory delight it offers, I often muse over the health benefits packed in each sip. The spices, the tea, even the milk – they all bring a touch of wellness to the table.

Starting with the star, tea leaves are known for their antioxidants. I’ve read and learned that these antioxidants can combat free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress.

That’s a fancy way of saying it’s good for overall cellular health. Beyond that, black tea, which I often use in my chai, has been linked to improved heart health.

But the tea is just the beginning. Those cardamoms, or as I fondly call them, “Elachi,” are not only aromatic powerhouses but also digestive aides. Many times, after a hefty meal, I’ve found solace in a cardamom-infused chai, which alleviates bloating and indigestion.

Let’s not forget the warm and comforting cinnamon. Beyond its delightful taste, cinnamon is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. This spice also plays a role in blood sugar regulation, making it a friendly ingredient for those watching their glycaemic index.

Lastly, the milk, especially if you’re using whole fat milk, brings in calcium, essential for bone health. And if you’re using alternatives like almond milk, you’re looking at an additional dose of vitamin E.

However, while Desi Chai packs in numerous benefits, moderation is key. The added sugar, if consumed in excess, can tip the balance. I always advocate for mindfulness – savour the chai, cherish its benefits, but be wary of overindulgence.

There you have it. Every cup of Desi Chai is not only a ticket to flavour town but also a nudge towards wellness. So the next time you sip on your chai, take a moment to appreciate the healthful symphony it plays within.

Crafting the Perfect Ambiance for Your Desi Chai Session

When I brew my Desi Chai, it’s never just about the drink. It’s an entire experience, a ritual, if you will.

The setting, the ambiance, the company – everything plays a pivotal role in enhancing the chai experience. The act of brewing and sipping chai is steeped in tradition and is almost meditative for me.

The perfect Desi Chai session begins with the setting. Personally, I find that natural lighting does wonders.

An early morning chai session, where the golden rays of the sun peek through the curtains, illuminating the steam rising from the cup, is pure magic. The evening sun, casting longer shadows and bathing the room in a warm hue, is equally mesmerizing.

A comfortable seating spot is essential. My go-to spot is an old armchair near the window. The cushioned seat, the view outside, and a cup of chai in hand – it’s therapeutic. If you don’t have that perfect chair yet, any cosy nook will do, as long as it’s a place where you can relax and lose yourself in your thoughts.

The next layer to the ambiance is sound. I often find solace in the quiet, but on some days, soft instrumental music or the ambient sounds of nature add to the charm. It’s not about distracting yourself but about enhancing the serenity that chai brings.

Last but certainly not least, the company. While I cherish my solitary chai moments, sharing a cup with a loved one amplifies the joy. The casual chatter, the shared laughter, the silence punctuated only by the clinking of cups – it’s moments like these that memories are made of.

Exploring the Spice Trail: How to Personalize Your Desi Chai

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my Desi Chai escapades, it’s that no two brews need to be the same. While there are classic ingredients that form the foundation of this drink, there’s a world of spices waiting to be explored and added to your chai.

Traditionally, my Desi Chai has been cantered around cardamom and cinnamon. But with time, my palate has become more adventurous, prompting me to delve deeper into the spice trail.

Star anise is one such spice that found its way into my chai pot. Its licorice-like flavour added a surprising depth to the chai. I was initially sceptical, but once I took that first sip, I was hooked.

Cloves, with their sharp and piercing aroma, were next on my experimentation list. Just a couple thrown into the brew brought a warmth that was both comforting and invigorating.

Black pepper, though unconventional for many, was a revelation. A pinch of freshly crushed pepper transformed the chai, making it spicy, with a kick that lingered.

Now, for those who are truly adventurous, there’s fennel. Its sweet, almost minty flavour can make your chai sing a different tune. It’s not for everyone, but for me, it’s an occasional treat that I indulge in.

Of course, adding these spices means balancing them with the classic ones. It’s a dance of flavours where you lead and the spices follow.

While the classic Desi Chai has its undeniable charm, don’t be afraid to experiment. Walk the spice trail, add a pinch of this and a sprinkle of that, and discover a chai blend that’s uniquely yours.

Journeying Beyond Borders: The Global Influence of Desi Chai

Every time I pour myself a cup of Desi Chai, it’s not just the warmth of the drink that engulfs me, but also the rich tapestry of its history.

From the bustling streets of India to the elegant tea rooms of London, Desi Chai, in many ways, has become a global sensation. And I’ve been fascinated by its global journey.

In India, where this brew originates, it’s more than just a drink; it’s an institution.

Streets are lined with ‘chai wallahs’ or tea vendors, each with their unique blend, bringing communities together. But as I travelled and researched, I discovered how this simple drink has charmed its way across continents.

Take Britain, for instance. The British have their own famed tea culture. But over time, with the influx of South Asian communities, Desi Chai found its way into their cups. And not just as a novelty. Cafes started offering “spiced tea” or “masala chai,” often paired with a delightful array of pastries and snacks.

Moving to the west, in the US, the chai latte became a sensation. It’s a reinterpretation, of course. Creamier, often spiced with a pre-made mix, and yet, at its heart, it’s reminiscent of the Desi Chai I so love. Every sip I took in those cosy American cafes connected me back to its roots.

The Middle East, with its own rich tea traditions, embraced Desi Chai, integrating it into their repertoire. I was pleasantly surprised to find, in the streets of Dubai, vendors serving Desi Chai, or “Karak tea,” as it’s often called there, with zeal similar to the chai wallahs of India.

What amazes me is not just its global reach but the adaptability of Desi Chai. It moulds itself, takes on local flavours, and yet retains its essence. And in this global journey, it does more than just quench thirst; it bridges cultures.

The Vegan’s Guide to Enjoying Desi Chai

I often find people asking, “How can I enjoy Desi Chai if I’m vegan?” or “Doesn’t the authentic taste get lost without regular milk?” Over time, I’ve realized that Desi Chai is versatile, and there’s room for everyone at the chai table, vegans included.

Milk, of course, is central to Desi Chai. It gives the brew its creamy texture and rich taste. But, in my many chai experiments, I’ve found that plant-based milks can be just as delightful.

Starting with almond milk, my first tryst with vegan chai was eye-opening. Almond milk brings a nutty undertone to the chai. The flavour profile shifts, yes, but in a refreshing way. The spices blend beautifully with it, creating a harmonious symphony of tastes.

Oat milk was next on my list. Its creamy consistency mimics that of dairy milk. So, when I first brewed my chai with it, the difference was subtle. It was Desi Chai, just a touch sweeter, a tad lighter, but every bit as soul-warming.

Coconut milk introduced an exotic twist. With its tropical notes, the chai felt like a vacation in a cup. The spices, especially cardamom, shone a little brighter, complemented by the gentle sweetness of the coconut.

Soy milk, a staple for many vegans, also found its way into my tea pot. Its neutral taste ensures that the spices remain the stars of the brew. The result? A cup that’s close to the traditional Desi Chai, with a hint of its own character.

While milk is integral to Desi Chai, it doesn’t have to be dairy. The world of plant-based milks offers a plethora of options, each bringing its own charm to the brew. So, to all the vegans out there, dive into the world of Desi Chai without reservations. There’s a blend waiting just for you.

Exploring the Spice Trail: The Key Ingredients in Desi Chai

Every time I brew a cup of Desi Chai, I am magically transported to the ancient spice markets of India. The aromatic symphony of spices intertwined with the comforting warmth of tea is a sensation I cherish deeply.

Desi Chai isn’t just about the tea leaves; it’s the spices that give it its iconic flavour. Let me take you on a journey through the spice trail that defines my favourite beverage.

These tiny green pods pack an aromatic punch. Every time I pop one open, the scent is intoxicating. It’s no wonder that they are often referred to as the “queen of spices.” Cardamom lends a sweet, floral note to the chai, subtly elevating its taste.

The history of cardamom is as rich as its flavour, tracing its origins back to ancient South India. Trading routes took it to Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. But to me, it’s the essence of Desi Chai.

If cardamom is the queen, then cinnamon is undoubtedly the king. When I add that little stick of cinnamon to my boiling water, it infuses the chai with a warm, woody sweetness.

Derived from the bark of the cinnamon tree, this spice has been celebrated since ancient times for both its medicinal properties and its rich flavour profile.

Some may argue sugar isn’t a spice, but in my chai, it’s an essential component. It doesn’t just sweeten the brew; it balances the robust flavours, bringing harmony to every sip. While the amount of sugar I add often varies based on my mood, a touch of sweetness is indispensable.

Beyond these primary players, there are other spices I occasionally flirt with – ginger for its zing, cloves for their intense aroma, and black pepper for a hint of heat. Each adds another layer, another nuance to the Desi Chai.

Every ingredient in Desi Chai tells a story, evoking memories, and invoking history. To me, every sip is a celebration of the ancient spice routes, and I find joy in reliving this journey daily.

Decoding the Health Benefits of Desi Chai

When I first fell in love with Desi Chai, it was purely for its flavour. But as I delved deeper, I discovered it wasn’t just a treat for the taste buds but also packed with health benefits. It’s amazing to think that my daily cup of comfort is also doing wonders for my wellbeing.

Tea leaves, the primary ingredient in my beloved chai, are loaded with antioxidants. Every time I indulge in a cup, I’m essentially boosting my body’s defence against free radicals. These antioxidants play a role in reducing cell damage and have been linked to numerous health benefits.

The spices in Desi Chai aren’t just flavour enhancers. Cardamom, for instance, has been linked to digestive benefits. I’ve often noticed it soothes my stomach, especially after a heavy meal.

Cinnamon, on the other hand, is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Every cinnamon-infused sip might be fighting inflammation in my body.

I’ve found that a cup of Desi Chai post meals aids in digestion. The spices stimulate digestive enzymes, speeding up the digestive process. Moreover, the warmth of the chai itself can be comforting and help reduce bloating.

The spices in Desi Chai, especially when I add a dash of ginger, play a role in strengthening the immune system. In those chilly winter months, when everyone around seems to be catching a cold, my daily chai ritual feels like added armour against the flu.

The caffeine in Desi Chai isn’t as potent as coffee, but it’s enough to give me a gentle boost. On sluggish mornings, it’s my go-to drink, awakening my senses and preparing me for the day.

While I didn’t need more reasons to adore Desi Chai, discovering its health benefits only deepened my appreciation. It’s a comforting thought that my daily indulgence is also a cup of good health.

Check Out These Other Recipes

After you’ve savoured the comforting warmth of Desi Chai, I urge you to dive further into the world of delightful drinks and complementary treats that’ll make your tea time an even more splendid affair. Remember that time I was enamoured by the creamy decadence of the Mango Lassi?

Its lush tropical flavour can turn any mundane afternoon into a summery delight. Or for those days when you crave something sweet after sipping your chai, I cannot recommend enough the classic Milk Seviyan, a velvety blend of milk and vermicelli, subtly fragrant and oh-so-indulgent.

But it’s not just about the drinks. Ever tried dipping Naan Bread into your chai? I might be bending the traditions a tad, but trust me, the soft naan dipped into the spicy chai is a fusion I wouldn’t mind having again.

And if you’re in the mood for some munchies with your chai, the Vegetable Pakora never disappoints.

Crisp, spicy, and absolutely divine – they’re like little bites of heaven that I can’t get enough of. Lastly, for those times when you have guests over and want to serve them more than just tea, the Chicken Tikka Masala alongside your chai can be a game-changer.

Dive into these recipes and let me know your thoughts in the comments section. Can’t wait to hear how you enjoyed them as much as I did!

Desi Chai

Desi Chai

by Nabeela Kauser
A spiced sweetened black tea mixed with tea that is now popular all around the world. Serve with a side of aloo pakora and this is your desi teatime treat sorted!
5 from 23 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Beverage, Drinks
Cuisine Indian, Pakistani
Servings 4
Calories 67 kcal


  • 800 ml Water
  • 3 Tea Bags
  • 1 tbsp Sugar
  • 5 Green Cardamoms Elachi
  • 300 ml Milk
  • 2- inch Cinnamon Dalchini


  • In a large saucepan pour the water in and bring to a gentle boil
  • Once the water has come to a boil split the green cardamom pods in half and add to the water along with the cinnamon sticks and boil for a few minutes until fragrant
  • Add the tea bags then allow to gently simmer on medium heat for 3-4 minutes
  • Pour in the milk and bring it to a gentle boil – better to use whole fat milk but can be substituted with semi skimmed milk or for a vegan alternative almond and oat milk works well
  • Add in the sugar and gently simmer for 4-5 minutes – amount of sugar added can be adjusted to suit personal preference
  • Serve alongside homemade paratha and onion pakora for a desi teatime treat and enjoy!



Nutritional facts:
The provision of nutritional information is done merely as a courtesy and should not be taken as a guarantee.


Calories: 67kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 3gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 40mgPotassium: 146mgFibre: 1gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 127IUVitamin C: 1mgVitamin D: 1µgCalcium: 116mgIron: 0.4mg
Keyword Hot Drinks, Recipe, Tea, Winter
Tried this recipe?Mention @CookwithNabeela or tag #CookwithNabeela!

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Ulrike Hutchins
Ulrike Hutchins
1 year ago

5 stars
This looks perfect! Does it keep for a few days?


Hi, I’m Nabeela and I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family-friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

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