Exam season ambushed me this semester. It wasn’t until after I found myself staring at the ceiling of the library at 3 am, after a late night study-sesh, that I reevaluated my stance on caffeine. I felt myself wanting to cave to the quick energy rush a cup of coffee would bestow my overwhelmed brain. The caveat is I'm not the biggest fan of coffee, as I'm firmly opposed to becoming dependent on an outside authority controlling my mood. The solution? A stellar chai recipe. 

I quickly pack up my backpack and mosey home, imagining the smell of cardamom and warm milk filling the crevices of my kitchen. Sweet sips and decadent scents alone send an energy boost rushing through my veins. Chai is the one drink that makes me forget caffeine is a drug.

Taylor Wang

The ingredients can be tweaked depending on how strong and sweet you like to take your tea, but I beg of you, use real cow milk. While you can use a milk alternative, my favorite way to have Chai is with 2% milk.

#SpoonTip: For an ultra-luxurious experience, use whole milk. 

As the drink of my childhood, Chai was constantly and slowly sipped by my entire family. For everyone in the Sahota Clan—and I think I can vouch for most Indian families—it was habitual: a morning, afternoon, and evening staple.

After living on my own, I realize I cannot perfect the recipe of my mother. Given that I don’t have a stove or measuring utensils at my disposal at university, I try my best to recreate the perfect Indian Chai, and as a result, trial and error has become my friend. 

My standards may be too high, but I love my Chai like I love Bollywood: piping hot, spicy, and full of wicked dance moves.

My Mama's Masala Chai

  • Prep Time:5 mins
  • Cook Time:5 mins
  • Total Time:10 mins
  • Servings:1
  • Medium


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pinch cardamom
  • 1-2 tablespoons ginger
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons black tea leaves or 2 bags black tea
Taylor Wang
  • Step 1

    Place water into a large pot. Over medium-high heat, let the water come to a rolling boil. Turn heat down to a simmer.

    ice, water, splash, cup of water, water cup, water splash, dropping ice
    Jocelyn Hsu
  • Step 2

    Quickly add cardamom, black tea, and sugar and let the mixture simmer for up to five minutes. This is the essence of your tea and where the flavor blooms. Patience is key, as the flavor can only come through if you allow it.

    Taylor Wang
  • Step 3

    Add the milk and watch the creamy swirls turn into the most fantastic, candid latte art you’ve ever seen. Let tea boil for another two minutes.

    Taylor Wang
  • Step 4

    Place the tea strainer or small siv—a staple in every brown mother’s house—and slowly strain the tea over a mug. If you are using tea bags, remove and throw them away.

    Taylor Wang
  • Step 5

    Admire your drink. Take a second and breathe in the aroma. Enjoy it. Savor it.

    Taylor Wang

As I make my own bootleg version of "Chai" in my dorm, I can hear my father’s daily croon to my mother— “Ma, Tusi chaha bana sakde ho?” Ma, can you make tea? Forget whatever the British may have said about teas, real Indian Masala Chai is the best quick, soul-warming fix.