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Jolie Cooks with Madhu Column: Chai Tea Turns into an Experiment

Posted on July 20, 2021 at 1:00 PM by Madhu Gadia

July 20, 2021.  

Jolie Cooks with Madhu Column:  
Chai Tea Turns into an Experiment



Is America split into two widely divided camps?  My preconceived notions: (1) people either like coffee or like tea but not both, and (2) inveterate tea drinkers do not like chai.  

Decided to do an Experiment

I followed Madhu’s simple recipe for Chai, New Indian Home Cooking, and served it to 10 people ranging from teenagers on up.  For each, I made a cup of chai using a black tea bag, water, 2 tablespoons of milk, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and only one spice, a crushed cardamom pod.

My findings:  The only totally negative comment came from one who doesn’t like milk in tea, period.  Two preferred it stronger, something they could easily adjust.

The rest of the comments were positive.  I was surprised to learn that almost all my testers drink tea as well as coffee. Comments from this group: “The flavor of the chai tastes more complex than just cardamom,” “Nice and relaxing,” and “It has a chill atmosphere.”

Even the three coffee-only drinkers, including me, confessed they enjoyed it. One in this small group said, “It’s a definite improvement over tea.  I like it.”  Another commented, “If I had to order tea, I’d order this.”

The tea drinkers, even those who order chai at coffee places, agreed that this chai was “flavorful and refreshing.” One who enjoys tea latte mixes noted, “The flavor was good even without additional spices.”


This little experiment of making chai for 10 people and tracking their opinions showed me that some middle ground still exists in our country. What a balm to my spirit.


Madhu’s Comments:

Jolie, you may be surprised to learn that India too is divided into tea and coffee camps. Tea is the beverage of choice in North India and coffee in the South. 

Chai is basically brewed tea with milk and sugar. Spices are optional. Typically, in India, people only have black tea leaves in the house, and all the flavors come from the spice cabinet. The idea of herbal tea is a new concept, and yet to see it served in India. 

All said and done, chai is definitely a personal beverage, which is what you learned in your “Chai Experiment.” Every element adds its own nuance to the tea. There is plain chai, and then there is cardamom chai, ginger chai, and masala chai. I prefer plain chai, and sometimes I will add cardamom for a subtle, simple flavor. But ginger chai is super popular in India. It’s very soothing if you have a cold or soar throat. Then there is masala chai which has several spices and has its own following. 

Chai became popular in the USA around the mid-90s as a trendy favorite in coffee shops - India’s chai goes mainstream in U.S.A. in Washington Times.

Recipe: Chai, New Indian Home Cooking, page 56 and Spiced Chai Latte (Masala Chai), The Indian Vegan Kitchen, page 181.

Disclaimer: "Jolie Cooks with Madhu" is an independent column. The views expressed are Jolie Zimmers's personal cooking experiences and do not represent any product or company. They are not paid or reimbursed by any third party for their viewpoints. 

Tagged As: Cardamom, Chai, Tea

Hi JoAnne, Yes, I thought the same thing about the other spices. Sometimes simplest is best. I am becoming very fond of cardamom as I cook with Madhu and am so happy she's introduced me to it.
Jolie | 7/21/21 at 11:33 AM
Interesting. I had thought that chai always had cinnamon, clove and cardamom, 'the three c's." Di you use cow's milk in chai in India?
JoAnne Zoller | 7/21/21 at 7:20 AM
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