4 cups water, or less if have thin non dairy milk
1 (1.5 inch) cube fresh ginger root, sliced
1 vanilla bean, sliced, optional
1-2 cinnamon sticks, optional
5-10 cardamom pods, crushed
2-4 whole black peppercorns, optional
2-3 teaspoons organic black tea (darjeeling, assam, other)
sweetener, to taste (agave, maple syrup, sugar)
1/4 cup-3/4 cup non dairy milk or coconut milk
powdered nutmeg, optional
powdered cinnamon, optional
1. Bring water to a boil in a pot. Add ginger root, cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean (if using), cardamom pods, and black pepper (if you want an extra kick.) Bring down heat to medium, and simmer for 10 minutes minimum (longer for more potency). Cover if you are going to use a thick "milk", leave uncovered if you are using a thinner "milk."
2. Add the black tea, cover and steep for another 3-5 minutes on medium-low heat. Now for the milk. If you are adding rice milk or a thinner consistency "milk," I suggest you use less water in the beginning and/or do not cover while simmering in order to cook off the water. If you are using coconut milk, I suggest you do cover while simmering because coconut milk is so thick and rich you don't need as much of it. It helps if the tea is more watery to balance out the oiliness.
3. You can, of course, strain the tea as is if you are sharing with someone who prefers a different "milk" than you, and add it to your cups individually. Same goes with sweetner! Add desired milk and sweetener. Sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon, if desired.
Typically it is a very sweet tea, but you can sweeten how you like. It's nice to make a big pot of this stuff and keep it on the stove on low heat if you are serving several peops. This way it keeps steeping, too. Don't leave it too long, however, because the black tea can get bitter. Strain with a french press, tea strainer, or use a tea pot. Enjoy! You should gets lots of yummy ginger flavor!
Note: For a traditional chai tea, black tea is the best. If you are not a caffeine drinker, you could try decaf black tea. You can also use kuchika twig tea, green tea, or mate'; but you really don't get the right flavor. If you ARE a caffeine junky, try adding a shot of espresso or a splash of very strong brewed coffee for a "dirty chai!" It's also creates a GREAT flavor!
Source of recipe: Modified from an Indian yogi friend's recipe. I've made it countless times and came up with a few twists of my own. It was very basic to start with.