I met my husband volunteering in a homeless teen shelter in Seattle’s University District. Just blocks away from shelter was the University of Washington and the accompanying independent coffee houses surrounding campus where you could always find people studying, socializing, or grabbing a quick latte or bite between classes or appointments. Although Seattle is known for its obsession with coffee, tea lovers can always count on cafes to also serve tea.
Before I showed up for my volunteer shift, I would stop by one of my favorite coffee houses and order a steamed spiced chai “tea” and a scone. The popular spiced South Asian tea paired well with the grey wet often gloomy weather during the fall and winter months here. It wasn’t until I dated Rob, whose father grew up in India and then immigrated to the US from Pakistan, did I realize that the chai tea I enjoyed so much should only be called “chai”, which translates to tea in many languages. When I first called the drink ‘tea-tea’ in front of Rob’s uncle Hameed he wasted no time in correcting me.
I’ve known Hameed since I married Rob fourteen years ago and he is one of the most hospitable people I know. When Uncle Hameed invites you over for dinner you can expect two things: 1) expect to eat really well; and, 2) expect to be offered homemade chai. Hameed makes his chai with strong Assam tea (black tea), hot milk, cinnamon, whole cloves, crushed green cardamom pods, and sugar.
I always joke with him by calling his chai: chai tea, though I know full well I’ll get scolded. He plays along and we laugh while he continues to top off my tea until I tell him I’ve had enough.
Today I’m happy to share with you this video of Uncle Hameed sharing his method and recipe for making chai. Feel free to adapt this recipe to your liking by using different types of milk or sweeteners. For children, I recommend making warm spiced milk the same way you would prepare chai minus the tea. My daughter Mimi loves it when I heat up milk along with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, and a touch of honey on a low simmer until the spices have infused their aromatics into the warm milk. In fact, she prefers this warm spiced milk over hot cocoa.
I hope you enjoy Uncle Hameed’s chai as much as I do.
*Note about the video and serving sizes: You should adjust the flavor of the chai to your liking. You may find the spices and the tea too weak or strong, but you can use this recipe as a base. Also, Hameed notes this is for 4 servings, but he usually serves his guests two cups. Serving sizes may be closer to 4-6.
Recipe: Authentic Chai
Learn how to make authentic chai with a video tutorial from Uncle Hameed.
4 cups water
2 teaspoons loose assam tea
4 whole green cardamom pods, smashed
2 whole cinnamon sticks, broken
10 whole cloves, smashed
3 cups milk
sugar or other sweetener, to taste
SPICED MILK RECIPE FOR ONE
1 cup milk
small pinch of cardamon powder
small pinch of cinnamon
small pinch of cloves
small pinch of ginger
1 teaspoon honey
Bring water to boil and add loose tea. Reduce the heat to a low simmer so the milk does not scald.
Add the cardamon, cinnamon, and cloves.
Add up to 3 cups of milk. The chai should look milky taupe in color.
Sweeten the chai with sugar according to your taste.
Stir the tea until the sugar has dissolved.
Pour the chai through a strainer and serve.
SPICED MILK RECIPE FOR ONE INSTRUCTIONS
Bring milk to a low simmer.
Stir in spices and honey.
Allow the milk to cool to a kid-friendly temperature before serving.