Although the best chai is made using whole spices, it can be difficult to get the balance right without some experience. This is the next best thing. No one really owns a chai recipe and it will differ from region to region in India, and from person to person. This recipe is by Don Sheehan, the owner of Stay Golden, an artisanal beverage company in Cape Town.
- 2 cups preferred milk (I use a blend of 50/50 oat and soya or almond)
- 31/2 T coconut milk or 1 T oil (e.g. coconut, virgin olive or avocado oil)
- a pinch of salt
- For the spice blend:
- 3 t ground cinnamon
- 2 t ground ginger
- 2 t ground cloves
- 1 t ground cardamom
- 1 t nutmeg
- maple syrup, agave syrup, or sweetener of your choice, for serving (optional)
1. Place your choice of milk and coconut milk (or oil) in a saucepan and simmer over a medium heat. If you want a less milky chai latte, blend the milk with water to your liking.
2. In a separate bowl, mix all the spice blend ingredients.
3. Once evenly mixed, add 2 t of the spice mixture to the hot milk and simmer for 5–10 minutes over a medium-low heat (the longer the better), stirring occasionally.
4. Once the spices have infused, add the maple syrup or sweetener if using.
5. Strain through a tea strainer or pour directly into your favourite preheated cup.
Cook's note: You can also add some rooibos or black tea (which is almost always added these days) or even an espresso for tea and coffee variations. Dark chocolate can also be melted in for a delicious chocolate chai twist. The sky is the limit here – try saffron, fresh lemongrass, beetroot juice or orange zest.
Keep the remaining spices for your next chai brew or use a pinch in smoothies, breakfast bowls or baked goods. Freeze any leftover coconut milk or cream into ice cubes that can be easily melted into a new batch of chai or golden milk the next time you're preparing a brew.
Photograph: Toby Murphy
Styling: Khanya Mzongwana