chai concentrate

$2.73 recipe / $1.00 drink

I was really really excited when I saw this post over on Judicial Peach the other day. Homemade chai is something that I’ve been wanting to make for quite some time. Never did I expect it to be so easy and so delicious. The final drink tasted every bit as good as what you’ll spend $4 on at a coffee shop and it is completely customizable (want less sugar? soy milk? orgainic?)

I did make one huge mistake in thinking that I had some cardamom in my cabinet. Turns out I didn’t and the grocery store near me did not have cardamom pods either so I had to make it without. Now, cardamom is kind of the signature spice in chai but I have to say, the drink was still freaking delicious without it. The recipe and prices below do not include the missing cardamom.

Chai Concentrate

Homemade Chai Concentrate

The cost of making this concentrate can be quite variable. The spices tend to be a little on the expensive side so you have to shop smart. I found a little bag of cinnamon sticks (photo below) in the hispanic foods section for only $1.50. You’ll pay three times that much if you buy it in a jar from the spice section. Cloves are pretty pricey too but luckily you don’t need many.

Tea can also vary quite a bit in price. Chai usually is made with black tea but I happened to have some Stash Black and Green Earl Grey so I used that. The floral aroma from the bergamot in the earl grey added a really nice touch. I bought the box of organic Stash tea at Target for $2.29 (18 bags). Tea can be 10x that expensive so shop around.

4.8 from 4 reviews
chai concentrate
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Total Cost: $2.73
Cost Per Serving: $1.00
Serves: 4
  • 4 bags black tea $0.51
  • 4 small sticks cinnamon $1.50
  • 1 inch fresh ginger $0.11
  • 10 whole cloves $0.39
  • ½ tsp vanilla $0.14
  • ½ cup sugar $0.08
  1. Place four cups of water in a medium pot. Add the cinnamon sticks, tea bags, whole cloves and ginger (peel and slice the fresh ginger).
  2. Bring the pot up to a boil, place a lid on top, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes to make sure it is brewed strong.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and carefully strain out the tea bags and spices (Place a colander over a bowl and pour it in). Using whole spices not only adds more flavor but makes straining them out much much easier.
  4. While the spiced tea is still hot, stir in the sugar and vanilla. Store the chai concentrate in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.
  5. To make a drink, combine one part chai concentrate with one part milk. Heat and serve!
To use cardamom pods, slighty crush 4-5 and add to the pot with the rest of the spices


homemade chai concentrate

Step By Step Photos

green black earl greyThis is the tea I used, it is very very delicious for a “bag” tea (I usually prefer loose leaf). Using a flavored tea may muddy up the chai flavor so go for plain black tea if you’re unsure. Luckily, the earl grey blended really well with the spices.

cinnamon sticksThese are the cinnamon sticks I found for a really low price. If your local grocer doesn’t have them for a decent price, try checking ethnic markets.

whole clovesMy itty-bitty jar of cloves. I didn’t have time to shop around for this one but luckily, the recipe doesn’t call for a lot.

whole clovesIf you’ve never seen a whole clove, this is what they look like!

fresh gingerPeel and slice one inch of fresh ginger.

spiced tea potThrow it all in a pot with 4 cups of water (sugar and vanilla is added later).

steamy spiced teaBring the pot up to a boil, place a lid on top, reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 5 minutes.

strain spiced teaStrain out the spices and tea bags.

spiced tea for chaiWhile it’s still hot, stir in the sugar and vanilla.

ChaiTo make a drink, combine one part chai concentrate with one part milk (I did 8 oz. of each). Heat and serve!

whipped chaiAdd a little whipped cream if you feel like something extra special.

This drink is seriously so good that I WILL be making it all winter long!


  1. Rachel says:

    I was going to buy cardamom pods on Amazon, but there is a choice of green or black? Anyone have a suggestion?

    • I think you could use either, but I have green.

    • Fatcat says:

      Use green cardamom in teas and sweets. Black has a smoky flavor and it’s best for savory meat dishes like curries/stews. IMO the smoky black cardamom and cinnamon do not go well together. Also, black is very strong compared to green so use sparingly.

      Also, the cheapest source of cardamom, cloves, fennel, turmeric, etc. will be your local Indian store, not Walmart, Whole Foods or Amazon.

  2. Jasmine says:

    Just wanted to jump on here to say thank you! I’ve been making this for about a week straight and i’ve found a coffee alternative!

    From a former barista-one of the best home made chai recipes ive come across so far!

  3. Julia says:

    So delicious. I love chai. Best recipe I have found so far. Thanks Beth. I love all of your recipes.

  4. Helena says:

    This looks amazing. I have some ground cardamom (that I got for you chai scones…sooo good). How much would you recommend adding to this?

  5. Kristin says:

    You may also want to check out your local grocery, if they have a bulk section. One of the local Whole Foods and my co-op have a bulk section that includes spices, herbs, and loose teas. Just a thought.

  6. Megan Lewis says:

    Are you able to use any herbal teas? My stomach has an intolerance to caffeine, so I feel like I am dying the rest of the day. I mean, no white, green, black, or sodas (if I liked soda) because of how horrible I feel afterwards. It’s very sad. :(

    • It will definitely taste different because black tea is a major part of the flavor of chai, but I think it would still be very delicious. You just can’t go wrong with steeping fresh herbs and spices :)

    • Kristin says:

      You could try infusing your water. Republic of tea has a Apple Cider tea that doesn’t have any white, green, or black in it.

      I enjoy getting mint or peppermint in the bulk section, and infusing it with hot water, for some mint tea. Just an idea.

    • Allie says:

      Hey Megan, I know it’s been a while since you originally posted so I’m not sure you’ll even see this, but I work at a coffee shop where we make a decaf chai using rooibois red bush tea.
      Rooibos is naturally caffeine free (not processed into decaffeination which leaves negligible amounts of caffeine) and creates a nice balance with traditional chai spices. It definitely isn’t the same, and I would be lying if I said I thought it was just as amazing as a chai made with black assam tea, but it’s still pretty freakin’ good and would totally recommend trying it out! Good luck!

  7. Lisa says:

    I absolutely love Chai! This is going to be a mainstay all winter long at my house! Thanks!

  8. sophie says:

    Last week I went an amazing coffeehouse and I had a “frozen” chai (it had more of a slushy), do you think that making some milk icecubes and putting that in a blender with the chai concentrate?

    • sophie says:

      …..sorry for the stupid typo, I meant to put “would work” at the end.

    • I think you’d have better luck if you froze the chai concentrate into ice cubes and then blended that with the milk. I feel like if you ice cubes to the chai concentrate and milk it might be too watered down.

  9. ginger says:

    My daughter and I just dashed out of the house r go and get all the ingredients to make your tea. It’s amazing, we love it! Thanks for the helpful advice about the cinnamon sticks. You saved us a few dollars.

  10. valerie says:

    It’s fabulous, thank you sooooooooooooo much. I have tried many online recipes and this is the best.

  11. valerie says:

    I like it strong so I doubled up the spices and I added half a tablespoon of black peppercorns, 2 star anise and a little orange peel. Making it now…

  12. Lisa says:

    Sounds delish! I only have ground cardamom (and don’t really want to invest in the whole). Anyone know how much cardamom powder I could add instead of the pods?

  13. Anonymous says:

    I learned this SAME EXACT method (creeped out) of making chai from a man who lived in India for 19 years. He is a big fan of experimentation, and often adds different things to his chai mixture every time he makes it. Things I’ve seen him put in is honey, brown sugar, mace, nutmeg, and loose/bagged tea. He insists on mixing it with the only “good” milk there is…whole milk. so it’s usually a once-in-a-while treat around our household. a huge pitcher of chai is made when we have guests.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Delish! My grocery store offers a bulk spice section and it’s MUCH cheaper than the spice aisle, especially since you can buy just what you need instead of having extras that sit around forever. For comparison, my 4 cinnamon sticks cost $0.30! I also added black peppercorns and whole nutmeg for a little extra kick = ]

  15. You can store it in the refrigerator for about a week :)

  16. Anonymous says:

    Hi! Sounds delicious. How would I store it?

  17. So excited that you have downloadable PDFs now. GREAT addition! Thanks so much.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Can’t wait to try this!!!

  19. My family loves Chai and I can’t wait to make it from scratch!

  20. This looks great I have never seen anything like it before thanks for sharing.

    Drink Fridges

  21. Anonymous says:

    This is definitely the best chai tea I have EVER had. Hands down.

    The chai also makes for a wonderful chilled beverage. Just skip the microwave, add your milk some ice and you’re good to go! :D

  22. I just discovered your blog a few days ago and have been scouring it ever since. I can’t wait to try some of the recipes you have here. I just wanted to mention that I make my own chai concentrate as well and I like honey as the sweetener(of course honey is more expensive), but the secret is… BLACK PEPPERCORNS! Seriously it’s so good with black pepper with the rest of the spices. It gives it a little bite and spice.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I followed these instructions and felt that my concoction wasn’t quite potent enough. Could I solve this problem by allowing it to simmer longer, or could it have been that my cinnamon sticks were a little dry? The smell and (faint but still yummy!) flavor were awesome and my husband loved it. Thanks!!


  24. Anonymous says:

    Great stuff! Thanks for sharing! I have been making chai for nearly a decade and used to sell it at parties when I had a vegan foodservice company. If I can offer some of my tips:

    -fresh, loose tea is always better and more flavorful (but can be pricier) than prepared teabags. Trader Joe’s has great prices on loose black tea.
    -if you wrap the spices (minus the tea) in a cheese cloth and tie it up in a bundle you can “parachute” them in and don’t have to strain at the end. Be sure to squeeze the crap out of the bag after to get all the good juices out.
    -you usually get what you pay for; Mexican spice bags like cinnamon are cheap for a reason. They tend to be dry and poorer quality. Spend a few extra cents on the better quality sticks – they’re amazing!
    -Megan made a good point – you can get really nice quality organic spices at some health food stores and co-ops in BULK, meaning you just take what you need from the big bin.
    -anon user made the good point that you want to add tea bags towards the end and steep only until it’s as strong as you need. Black tea gets more bitter and stronger with time.
    -I like to use maple syrup as a sweetener. Fabulous flavor! It can be a bit pricey
    -Easier to dump the sweetener into the boiling water at the end so it dissolves, and taste for sweetness. Saves you a step later.
    -I like to use soymilk (or another type of nondairy beverage like soy creamer or almond milk) because I’m vegan. It also helps cool the chai to drinking temperature.
    -Wait for the chai to cool a bit before adding vanilla. Vanilla extract is a suspension in alcohol, so putting it in hot water will make lots of it evaporate as if you put in rum.
    -Incidentally, rum or vodka make FABULOUS additions on a cold day. :-) I call this “chai plus”. That’s trademark 2008 ladies!


  25. This was awesome! I made some for myself and as a hostess gift for my friend on Thanksgiving. Like you said, ethnic (Indian) stores are the best place for spices. You can get a HUGE bag of cardamon pods, cinnamon sticks or whole cloves for supa cheap.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Agave, honey, and stevia are great sugar alternatives.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I saw this and HAD to make it. I substituted Splenda for the sugar because I always watch my calorie intake and it worked perfectly! I’m addicted! I plan to make this for Christmas gifts for the girls in the office. Thanks for the post.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Hey all! You can actually make a big pot of this and store the concentrate (NOT THE MILK) in the fridge for about a week in a glass container. Make sure that it is glass so that it won’t stain! Oh, and I always make mine by boiling the spices first to really get them developed then about 4 minutes after they have started boiled then you add the tea bags until it is strong enough! Love it!!

  29. Most places have some sort of local botanica or herbal apothecary. All of these herbs (minus the fresh ginger) can be found for generally low prices, sold in bulk, and usually organic. I bought an ounce of organic whole clove for $1.50. Cinnamon and cardamom can be found there too. Nutmeg would probably taste wonderful with this as well. The spicy bite would add something nice, and it seems to be the perfect compliment to cinnamon and clove.

  30. I bet you could simmer the spices with some orange peel or something after making the tea & have a nice little potpourri…I LOVE those scents!

    My boyfriend is a big chai drinker, so I might have to give this one a try! :)

  31. I saw a recipe on Apartment Therapy to make your own chai tea mix that you can give as a gift, or make for yourself. Similar to this recipe.

  32. oh man….this is a GOOD ONE….i really really look forward to trying this!!! Thank you!!! perfect for the season too!

  33. I love chai and use a spice blend with Earl Grey myself — the bergamot really does pop with the spices. Try some fennel seed and bay leaf if you have them, too, or star anise! So good, and such deep flavors.

    Great post! Mmm… chai…

  34. Yeah, you pretty much have to toss the spices. Unless anyone else has any ideas? They will make your trash smell pretty so I guess that’s a second use! hahah

    • Maureen Kavanaugh says:

      Rather than throw the spices out, you could put them on the stove in a pot of water and just let it simmer. If you have some lemon laying around, throw that in too! The house will smell great and you are basically using your “garbage” as homemade potpourri :)

  35. Anonymous says:

    So do you throw all the spices out after, or can you use them again? This looks amazing and I love chai so I’ll be making it soon!

  36. Ooops! I meant to include that and forgot… I just added it in after step 5. Basically, you just crush a few pods and add them to the pot with the rest of the spices :)

  37. Anonymous says:

    Having read what you said about cardamom pods, how would you make it with it? Do you think I should bother putting that in?

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