My Obsession: Chai Tea

I often thought (and still do sometimes) that I didn’t have an obsession. Some people are obsessed with sports teams, others with Sharpies, and still others with things like selfies (does anyone else out there not have a cell phone capable of this?!). I always thought to myself, “Not me..I’m so adaptable. I can give up anything and be fine.”

And then I moved to China. And everything normal was stripped away.

Our first year, I was desperate to find something normal to put into my mouth. I ate cereal for breakfast my entire life. Gone. The bread is sweet here. No lunch meat for a simple sandwich. I could find peanut butter..sometimes. And dinners, if you remember from my first post, were utterly disastrous.

Before we moved here, I had become, ahem, quite acquainted with chai tea. Not the tea bags. Sorry, not much of a tea girl besides the bliss of a carton of  Oregon. Mix it with milk, and oh baby. Heaven in a cup. I didn’t have it every single day, but pretty darn close!

I know most people turn to coffee for their daily dose of comfort or energy, and don’t get me wrong, this former barista loves a good latte. But good coffee is hard to come by here. It doesn’t help that my all-time favorite is from a local coffee shop in Kansas City. They definitely don’t have the “made in China” stamp on the back, so no chance of finding it here. Plus, since I was a barista, I became a bit of a snob. Brewed coffee just doesn’t cut it anymore. Foamed milk, espresso, sugary syrups…now we’re talking. Or not. Because lattes are hard to come by without breaking the bank, if at all.

So I went back to my first love. I had to figure out a way to make it at home. I’ve made at least a dozen different recipes for chai over the past few years. This is a combination of some of those. It’s no replica of Oregon (oh, the day I figure that one out!), but my body yearns for it every afternoon while my boys give me an hour of peace. You may have to hunt for or ask for an ingredient or two, but if you long for a warm cup of spicy goodness, you’ll make it happen!


The line-up (minus the brown sugar): black tea, vanilla bean, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom.


Bring the water to a boil, dump everything in, and steep for 20 minutes. Extra bonus to drinking this deliciousness: it makes your home smell wonderful for hours!


Strain. Not the prettiest set-up, but whatev. Gets the job done! After you strain, add the brown sugar.


Grab a mug. Lately, I’ve found that I love a little dollop of sweetened condensed milk added. What can I say? I love my chai tea sweet!


To make a latte, pour into a mug 1/2 concentrate, 1/2 milk. Pour this mixture into a small pot to warm up. If you whisk extra fast, you can even get a little froth! You can, of course, do this all in the microwave, but I’ll tell you it doesn’t taste as good.


Do your best to keep it away from little hands. Is it bad that my 4 year-old likes chai as much as I do?

Chai Tea Concentrate

Makes enough for about 5-6 lattes

4.5 cups water

1” knob of ginger, peeled and cubed

6-10 whole cloves or ½ tsp ground cloves*

2 cinnamon sticks or 1 tsp ground cinnamon*

1 tsp ground cardamom or 3-4 cardamom pods**

1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp vanilla extract***

6 black tea bags

1/2-2/3 c brown sugar (or honey)

*The more ground ingredients you use, the more you’ll have at the bottom of your cup. If this bothers you, you can strain the finished chai through a cheese cloth.

**I bought my ground cardamom in the States, but have since learned it’s widely available in China, but in the pods. Hooray! Also, I bought my whole cloves in my normal, local grocery store. A bag that lasts me all year cost about 50 cents. Cinnamon sticks are also bought locally for about 20 cents for 5.

***I usually use vanilla beans (found on Taobao) because I couldn’t stand to use all my extract. I figured their flavor isn’t all extracted after one use, so I’ll reuse them 2 or 3 more times.

Bring water to a boil. Add all ingredients and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain out all ingredients. (Use cheese cloth if you want all the spice granules out.) Stir in sugar/honey while it’s still hot.

This recipe is extremely flexible! Add more or less of the flavors you like most.

To drink: In a mug, add ½ chai concentrate, ½ milk. Reheat.

Store in the refrigerator. This batch lasts me about a week, but would be good up to 2 weeks.

What’s one of your food or drink obsessions?


  1. M'Lynn January 15, 2014

    I love chai! I have a great recipe a friend shared with me this year for chai tea mix. I think your  way is more legit, but I like just adding powder to a mug and hot water and done. That’s probably blasphemy to a barista. This reminds me of discovering my now favorite cookie recipe that requires hardly any import stuff (just vanilla). Any recipe made with locally found ingredients is worth it’s weight in gold!

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 16, 2014

      Alright, M’Lynn, no teasing us with an amazing cookie recipe.  Do share!!  🙂

      1. M'Lynn January 16, 2014

        This recipe is the result of a China kitchen “oops!”  I halved the recipe but forgot to half the salt.  Then, I realized this made it perfect!  Also, if you’re using light brown sugar (which I sometimes have, but not always) then it’s 1 cup white sugar, 1 cup light brown sugar.  For dark brown sugar go with 1 1/2 cup white sugar, 1 cup dark brown sugar.
        Oatmeal Cookies


        1 1/2 cups sugar
        1/2 cup dark brown sugar
        1 cup oil
        2 eggs
        1 tsp vanilla

        1 1/2 tsp salt
        2 cups flour
        1 tsp baking soda
        1/2 tsp baking powder
        1 1/2 cups oatmeal

        Cream the sugars and oil. Add eggs and vanilla. Combine separately the salt, flour, baking soda, baking powder. Stir into the creamed mixture. Add oatmeal. Bake at 350°F for 8-9 minutes. Makkes about 30 – 35 cookies
        *I like to take them out when they are just barely brown around the edges.  You’ll wonder if they are really done.  Let them sit and cool awhile and they’ll be a little crispy on the outside and perfectly chewy on the inside!

    2. Ashley Felder January 16, 2014

      I feel ya on the “just add hot water mix.” Wish I had some right now! Not sure what I’m gonna do this long without some chai!

  2. Sharee January 15, 2014

    We make our own vanilla extract with vanilla beans and a bottle of vodka. You don’t even need the good stuff! Just the cheap vodka. Split the vanilla beans, scrape out the seeds, and put the seeds and the pods into the bottle. Put in a dark cupboard for 6 weeks and you’ve got vanilla extract! A bottle will last for well over a year or more, and when it’s halfway done you can add more vodka.

    My husband also puts a couple of vanilla beans in his sugar canister to make vanilla infused sugar for his coffee.

    Taobao rocks for so many baking ingredients!

    1. Ashley Felder January 16, 2014

      Sharee, thanks for this tip! After I wrote this (a while ago), I finally made my own first batch of vanilla! Thankful it turned out and I don’t have to fret over when I’ll get my next tiny bottle from the States! And the tip about the sugar..yummo!

    2. Meagan Stolk January 16, 2014

      Going to keep my eyes open for some vanilla beans and will try making this.

  3. Morielle January 15, 2014

    Ah! I can’t wait to try this!

    1. Ashley Felder January 16, 2014

      Tell us how it turns out, ok? And if you’d tweak anything!

  4. Cecily January 16, 2014

    I would imagine that everyone living overseas can say “Amen!” to this longing for familiar food.  Oh, how I miss Starbucks!  The latte is for me–hot or iced.  Actually, I’m thankful that there is no Starbucks nearby because I am saving money 🙂  But when I am in the USA for a break, you’ll know where to find me!

    1. Ashley Felder January 16, 2014

      I agree, Cecily! Last year, we moved to a much larger city and I was so excited they even had coffee and tea shops. I quickly realized the standard was not the same. Then, Starbucks invaded. 9 built in one year. NINE. A few of them are literally 3 blocks apart. But, just as you said, my wallet hurts every time I go, so now it’s all about resisting the urge!

  5. Danielle Wheeler January 16, 2014

    I just found cheap cardamom in Thailand!  So excited to make this!!

    1. Ashley Felder January 16, 2014

      Wahoo! I imagine it’s all over this land since there’s a heavy Indian influence. Cardamom can be used in so many other recipes, too, so start experimenting!

  6. Danielle January 16, 2014

    I can’t usually do hot drinks here since, well, the weather is already HOT most of the time.  But in the mornings I love a good cup of coffee. My husband has found a great place that sells coffee beans from Vietnam and Laos and it’s amazing!

  7. Meagan Stolk January 16, 2014

    My obsessions are rooibos tea and dates (you can get dates here but they are just so expensive). Whenever I travel back from Oz or my dad is visiting I make sure that these two essentials  are packed for my sanity. The day that I finally found rooibos on the shelf I pretty much danced in front of it and snapped a photo for all my other tea loving friends to know this newly arrived treasure.

    It used to drive me crazy how much my American housemates would talk about pumpkins around October-November. They were obsessed! Every conversation was about pumpkins and things they longed to make with pumpkins. Pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins! It drove me insane until one day I just snapped and said, “Does everything have to be about pumpkins?” That year I made them pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving (though I had never tried it before) and that first bite won me over to the pumpkin contingent. Since that day whenever they have the “fall” specials in cafes frequented by expats I enjoy pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin spiced brownies, pumpkin scones and muffins.

  8. Elizabeth Legendre January 16, 2014

    I brought several boxes of my favorite chai with me to France. it’s my little taste of home!

    1. Ashley Felder January 20, 2014

      Mental note: bring MORE chai packets for when I’m on the go. We’re now traveling in Thailand, and I’m dying for some right now! I got so desperate that I went to 7-11 and bought a cold milk tea. Ew, so not the same. 😉

  9. Dawn January 22, 2014

    I may have missed this somewhere in the post, so forgive me if that’s the case. However, can you tell me how many black tea bags you use for the amt. of concentrate this recipe makes? Thanks!

    1. Ashley Felder January 23, 2014

      Thanks for pointing out quite an important thing to include, Dawn! Sorry I forgot to add it in! Oh, the learning curve for writing recipes for all to see is quite large! Anyway, I’ll fix it above, but I usually use  6 black tea bags. This can be altered, of course. 🙂 Thanks again for pointing out my mistake!

  10. Dia January 22, 2014

    Also wondering about the teabags- From the pics it looks like 6, but it is hard to tell…..

    Have been able to find all the ingredients here in E. Europe. Even have vanilla brewing as described above (doing a second bottle now). My list of “must-haves from the US” is dwindling year by year as things become more available, or I have learned to adapt.

    Thanks for the recipe. Gonna make this soon, but will have to fight my (college-age) daughter for it!

    And thanks for this website- there is SOOO much I can relate to. I have laughed and cried some days as your posts hit close to home.


    1. Cecily January 22, 2014

      Hi, Dia!  I don’t know where you are, exactly, but since you mentioned E. Europe we are, relatively speaking, neighbors.  Good to know someone here in my neck of the woods!

      1. Dia January 23, 2014

        Hi, Cecily! We are close to the Baltic Sea, and compared to some in E. Europe, have few hardships when it comes to “creature” comforts. I do not know where you are, or for how long, but Velvet Ashes has been a GREAT encouragement to me. It feels like God knew what He was doing when I stumbled upon it at it’s unveiling- I needed to have someone else say “this life is not always easy, or fun, or glamorous (some back home seem to think we are sooo Super Spiritual by being here) but that’s okay, and we understand the unique challenges.” Blessings to you.

        1. Cecily January 23, 2014

          Hi, Dia!  I’m not very close to the Baltic Sea, but compared to China, Japan and Mexico (where I understand others are located) we are quite close to each other!  I have several creature comforts, too, and am glad the Lord called me to this part of His world.  But distance means nothing on Velvet Ashes, so welcome to my world!

    2. Ashley Felder January 23, 2014

      Good eye, Dia. It is 6! Hope your vanilla extract and chai turn out. Yumminess in your kitchen! You could always brew a double batch so you don’t have to fight with your daughter. 😉

      1. Dia January 23, 2014

        Thanks, Ashley! Chai this weekend!

  11. Deb Smith April 8, 2016

    I live in Kenya (14 years now) and the motto is – “Anytime is chai time!” I’m addicted to it and especially love reading and meditating on God’s word with a cup in my hand! Brewing your concentrate concoction right now! [PS – I’ll come back with my thoughts after I’ve enjoyed a few cups.]

    Photo is from Jinja, Uganda. My cup of chai overlooking the Nile River last month.

    1. Ashley Felder April 9, 2016

      Oh my goodness, that is GORGEOUS!!! Let me know how your brew turns out!

      1. Deb Smith April 13, 2016

        I absolutely loved it! And I really like the idea of making a batch of four cups at a time in a concentrate. It was a bit sweet for me (I used honey), so I’ll reduce that a bit next time. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

  12. Marla Henderson January 2, 2018

    Here is another great Chai recipe that you can make up and then when you need a cup it is all ready for you!

    Chai tea recipe

    1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (or make your own)
    1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
    1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
    Dash of nutmeg
    Mix it all together and stick it in the ref. The longer it stays in the ref, the tastier it becomes. To use, stir the mixture, scoop out 1 – 2 tablespoons directly into a cup of very strong, hot black tea. Enjoy!
    It is also good iced! 🙂

    1. Ashley Felder January 19, 2018

      This looks great! A few tweaks that I’m interested to try. Since writing this a few years ago, I’ve had a decently steady stream of chai latte packets, but my fall-back is always making my own, in between hoarding the preferred stuff! 😉

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