One Tough Cookie’s homemade chai syrup

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As I mentioned last November, I’m head-over-heels in love with masala chai.

I don’t happen to be much of a coffee drinker. I worked as a barista for a year when I was sixteen, and after I quit my job, I began to have terrible headaches from caffeine withdrawal. Ever since then, I switched to coffee’s less-aggressively-caffeinated sister — tea, of course — and haven’t looked back since. Though I’ve grown to love rare green and white tea varietals, and I generally take all my tea straight, I have a real soft spot for masala chai. I love the earthy bitterness of black tea, especially to keep me up when work extends late into the night, but (surprise!) I also love to indulge my sweet tooth. Masala chai does just that, with the tea flavour softened by the sugar and milk and fragrant spices.

But summertime’s upon us (though you mightn’t know it from the weather we’ve been seeing in Toronto lately), and simmering pots of hot tea aren’t what most people are looking for to quench their thirst. The solution? Make your own chai syrup, of course! It only takes 20 minutes, 19 of which are just simmering time. From then on it’s as simple as: 1. Pour syrup into glass, 2. Add milk, 3. Bottoms up!


Homemade chai syrup


  •  4 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 10 heaped teaspoons or 8 – 10 bags of black tea, strings removed.
  • 1 large ‘thumb’ of fresh ginger, cut into pieces
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 whole star anise pods
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 10 green cardamom pods
  • 1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns

1. Pour the water, sugar, tea, ginger, cinnamon sticks, and anise into a large saucepan.

2. In a mortar and pestle, break up the cloves, cardamom pods, and peppercorns. Or, failing having an m & p hanging around, throw the spices into a ziplock baggie and bash at your leisure with a rolling pin, hairbrush, etc. Add the spices to the pot.

3. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain over a fine mesh sieve, or piece of cheesecloth. Allow the syrup to cool before using.

4. Add to cold milk, soy milk, or almond milk with a ratio of 1/3 syrup to 2/3 milk. Ice optional. Keeps in a sealed jar in the fridge for about one week, though I drank all of mine in three days.

Happy sipping!



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