Make this karak chai, then check out our masala chai, turmeric chai tea, chai latte and more afternoon tea recipes.

Recipe author Urvashi Roe says: “Making chai is a pastime. Or ‘time-pass’ as we say in my family. It’s always the first thing to get started as soon as friends or family walk in through the door. When the doorbell rang, it was my job to quickly tot up how many people the chai was for and then hurry into the kitchen to make it. However, for my father, making chai is a ritual. Every morning after he has done his prayers, he makes his karak chai – strong tea with warming spices to fire up the body and kick-start the day. It was always done in solitude and I wouldn’t dare enter the kitchen until he was done. When I heard the slurping, I knew it was safe to enter.”

Urvashi’s book Biting Biting is available in all good bookstores and online. Follow Urvashi on Twitter and Instagram @UrvashiRoe.

Karak chai recipe


  • 200ml full-fat milk
  • 2 tsp sugar, more or less to your taste
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp finely ground black pepper
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 tea bag, assam or english breakfast
  • 2 tbsp single cream (optional)


  • STEP 1

    Pour the milk and 200ml of water into a pan, and warm over a gentle heat until it just starts to simmer. Add the sugar and spices, then whisk gently to mix well.

  • STEP 2

    Add the teabag and keep stirring or whisking gently until the milk starts to thicken ever so slightly. You need to keep an eye on it the whole time, otherwise the milk may boil over. The darker the colour, the more ‘karak’ (or strong) your chai will be, so do remove the teabag to suit your preference.

  • STEP 3

    Just as the milk starts to rise a little in the pan, turn off the heat and stir in the cream, if using, for a creamier texture. Keep stirring as the chai cools to prevent a skin forming, then pour into a large mug or two glasses. Slurp it while it’s hot!

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