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Indian chai: a healthy alternative to hot chocolate
by Colleen Hulett

India - ChaiMy children love to sit by the fire during the winter and drink chai. In fact, this recipe is my family's most popular evening request. Chai is the Indian word for tea. More specifically, it is a blended beverage of mixed spices, milk and honey. I once read that in India, chai is a very popular drink and one can find a chai stand on every corner much like you can find a chip wagon on many corners in Canadian cities. It is a healthier alternative to hot chocolate, latte or cappuccino, and can be made with regular milk or dairy-free alternatives. My personal preference is soy milk.

There are many different chai blends unique to their region of India but the original recipe was created out of the need for a medicinal and healthy recipe to combat minor discomforts for those without easy access to medical care. Chai can be useful for nausea, indigestion, gas, colic, parasites, headaches, and for eliminating mucus from the body. It is warm and stimulating to the body-- perfect for the average Canadian diet during our winters. Below is my favourite recipe and I know you will be surprised at just how easy this exotic tea is to make. For a decaffeinated version, simply drop the black tea and substitute with rooibos. All of the ingredients can be found in your local health food store. Enjoy.


1 oz freshly grated ginger root
7 peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
5 green cardamom pods or 15 decorted seeds
1 pint pure water
1 tbs black ceylon tea
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
Honey to sweeten (optional)


In a stainless steel or glass pot add the first six ingredients together and bring to a boil.
Do not let boil and immediately reduce to simmer. Simmer 10 minutes. Add the soy milk and black tea and simmer 10 minutes more. Strain. Add nutmeg and vanilla. Serves 4. Let individuals sweeten with honey as desired.

Tierra, M. The Way of Herbs. New York, 1998 p. 74.

Contact me at if you have any questions or comments.

Colleen has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography and has been a practicing herbalist since 1996. She is currently studying The Science and Art of Herbology with revered herbalist Rosemary Gladstar.

"Overall, this tea is excellent. If I were to make it again I would reduce the fresh ginger to a pinch or add a pinch of dried ginger along with the nutmeg. I'm a little sensitive to spicy foods. . . but if you love a ginger zing then you will enjoy this recipe as it is written."

Robin Russell, Tester

Recipe published: Winter, 2002

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