I have a newfound obsession with chai lattes- the bitterness from the black tea, the spiciness from the black peppercorns and ginger, the sweetness from the honey and just the all around cozy vibes cuddling up with a big ol’ mug of frothy deliciousness. Sometimes you just need to deviate from your coffee routine to keep life exciting, yet still need the caffeine surge. Enter- the chai latte.
What exactly is a chai latte?
Originating in India and known as “masala chai”, chai (which literally translated means “tea”) is black tea flavored with Indian spices. Add steamed milk to the equation and it becomes a latte.
You can get a chai latte from Starbucks or any other coffee shop these days. But those tend to be overly sweetened (with 42 g of sugar to be exact) and will cost ya a pretty penny.
And yes, you can buy chai tea bags from the store. But the difference between doing that and spicing your own black tea with spices is like the difference between buying pre-made pizza dough and making the dough by hand.
The pre-made dough (or in this case, the pre-spiced chai tea) IS super convenient and by all means, you go ahead with your bad self and use it when you are in a pinch and just neeeeed a latte without waiting for the tea to infuse with delicious flavors. But if you want your latte to have a stronger licorice flavor, or ginger at all- that’s where the homemade chai latte recipe comes in. It gives you the ability to tweak it and make it your own, exactly how you like it.
Just a note- if you are using the pre-spiced tea bags, I would still recommend still following this recipe for the steamed milk, flavored with vanilla extract and cinnamon to take your latte to the next level.
What type of tea should I use?
Black tea. Any kind of black tea. Just make sure it doesn’t have anything else added to it, like orange peel or other flavorings. That will throw off the chai flavor profile and defeat the purpose you’re aiming for.
Tea enthusiasts will tell you to exclusively use loose leaf tea. They say you will get a better flavor than bagged tea. And while I am sure they are correct, I would not consider myself a tea enthusiast, and think bagged tea serves its purpose here. And easier to locate in the store, which is ALWAYS my goal for my recipes.
But if you are a tea enthusiast and use loose leaf tea, more power to ya. Go ahead and substitute that in this recipe.
What spices are used in Chai?
Chai can be flavored with a combination of many different Indian spices. The most traditional chai would have cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper. And then from there, most recipes deviate depending on taste preference. Star anise, cloves, allspice, and fennel are also spices that are commonly added to masala chai.
Here’s the thing. The beauty of making this from scratch at home, is you can alter the spices that you use depending on your preference! For example- I don’t particularly care for cardamom (which is a staple in traditional chai), but there are #norules in cooking, so I would leave it out of my chai. Call me crazy, but if I am going to take the time to make something, I want it to taste how I want it to taste.
That being said, I have added the cardamom in this recipe because it is very traditional. But if you, like me, don’t care for it, then leave it out and we will think no less of you. Or, if you can’t find one of these spices at your local grocery store, don’t go on a wild goose hunt for the spice, just leave it out!
The spices that I would definitely not opt out of and are common spices that can be found at almost any grocery store, would be cinnamon, ginger, black pepper and anise. In my opinion, these four spices work super nicely together to create a sweet but spicy, balanced flavor profile.
How do I assemble the chai?
There are really only a few steps you need to take to create this chai latte
- Toast your spices. Please for the love of everything good in the world, anytime you are using whole spices instead of pre-ground spices, toast them. And when I say toast, all I mean is throw them in a saute pan over medium heat, move them around so they don’t burn, and remove them from the heat once they start getting aromatic. This is going to give you a wayyyy better flavor profile from your spices.
- Steep the tea- steeping tea is simply extracting the tea flavors into the water. And you need hot water to do this. So bring your water to a boil, but don’t leave it at a boil or your water will reduce and you will end up with much less water than you started out with. Lower the heat to low once the water comes to a boil, add your tea bags (or loose leaf tea) and your toasted (ahem, no skipping) spices and ginger.
- Lattes are made with steamed milk. But again, if you don’t have a milk steamer, don’t panic. Start by heating the milk with the vanilla extract and cinnamon in a small sauce pot. If you have a milk frother, go ahead and froth the hot milk. No frother but you have an immersion blender? Froth the milk with that after heating up in the sauce pot. And if you have none of those things, pour some of the hot milk in a mason jar with a lid and shake it like a polaroid picture until the milk is frothy. Viola! Cooking is all about problem solving.
- To make a “dirty” latte- add a shot of espresso!
Note: whole milk froths the best, so if you attempt to froth skim or 2% milk and it isn’t working, that is likely your problem.
For another warm drink recipe:
Make sure to tag me @heyemilyann on Instagram if you make this homemade spicy chai latte. I love seeing my recipes come to life in YOUR kitchen! To pin this recipe and save it for later, you can use the button on the recipe card or on any of the photos above. Happy creating!Print
This spicy chai latte is infused with delicious spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves and anise! Topped with a frothy, flavored steamed milk.
- 4 c water
- 5 black tea bags
- 3 star anise, toasted
- 2 green cardamom pods, toasted
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
- 3 cinnamon sticks, toasted
- 1 tsp cloves, toasted
- 1 tsp black peppercorn, toasted
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 c whole milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
Tea: In a small sauce pot, bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add tea bags, ginger, star anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves and black peppercorns. Let steep in hot water for five minutes. Remove tea bags, and allow spices to steep for 10 more minutes and add honey. Strain spices out of the tea with a mesh strainer.
Milk: Combine the milk, cinnamon and vanilla extract and steam until hot and frothy. If you do not have a steamer, add milk, cinnamon and vanilla extract in a small sauce pot and heat until boiling. Remove from heat and froth with an immersion blender.
Assembly: Pour 1 c of infused tea into a mug and top with 1/2 c of frothed milk. Top with additional cinnamon and serve.
Tea can be made 5 days in advance and be stored in the fridge.
This recipe makes 4 lattes. If you wish to only make one, make the entire batch of tea and store the rest in the fridge for a faster latte tomorrow. For the milk, use 1/2 c whole milk, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/8 tsp vanilla extract and steam. Combine 1 c of the tea with steamed milk.
- Category: drinks
- Cuisine: Indian
Keywords: chai, latte, tea, homemade latte, starbucks
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