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Homemade Chai Tea

Chai tea has its origins in Indian Ayurvedic medicinal practices. However, I’ve never been to India and I can’t say I’ve had true chai from a chai walla. I have traveled extensively in Eastern and Southern Africa with many Indian cultural influences throughout the parts of Tanzania and Zanzibar I’ve visited. In those travels, I’ve come to appreciate the power of fresh spices to transform flavor profiles of food into a much more enjoyable experience. Hence the birth of lemongrass chai tea.

Mason jar of iced chai tea on a marble counter with chalk writing "Iced Chai" on the glass. Glass says Established 1898.

This Lemongrass Chai Tea recipe will help you save money and makes a tasty snack hot or cold. You can alter the sweetness and spiciness to your preference. When you make it at home you’re in complete control to make your chai tea any way you please! I choose to add lemongrass to my chai tea for an extra smooth flavor.

Chai

The Indian cultural influence on Tanzanian culture is apparent in many ways, including through the Kswahili language. The word chai, meaning ‘tea’ in Hindi, also means tea in Swahili. Given there is a significant overlap between Hindi and Swahili words due to the trade along the Indian Ocean for centuries, it makes sense. 

Taking tea or having a cup of tea with snacks is a common custom in post-colonial countries. I first encountered the tasty black tea produced in Sub-Saharan Africa when I lived in Uganda in 2006. Local farmers grew black tea and coffee in the rich hills near Masaka and I was fortunate enough to drink my favorite black tea every day with breakfast. The typical reasonably pricedt able black tea comes in a green and yellow container with gold foil inside and is very good quality tea. I brought back 10 boxes the last time I visited Uganda in 2010. This is my last expired tattered box. 

Chai tea pinterest pin "make your own lemongrass chai latte at home"
Learning About Mchai-chai

When I moved to Tanzania in 2010, I discovered that I’d continue to enjoy the tradition of taking black tea . I represented the U.S. embassy and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the opening of a HIV/AIDS Care and Treatment Clinic funded by PEPFAR. The clinic was located in a distant region of Tanzania near the border of Uganda, Rwanda, and Lake Victoria. 

The Mayor of the town greeted me and toured me around in his personal vehicle. Since I was representing the Embassy, he was my ambassador and wanted to make sure the visit was perfect. 

Our first stop was at a local cafe where we ordered tea before we started our drive. He wanted to start the day with an overview of his area. The pot of tea that we ordered was fantastic! I asked the mayor why the tea in that region tasted so good.  He promptly asked the woman who owned the restaurant what she did to the tea. 

She said she didn’t do anything in particular, it was just mchai-chai.  The response pleased him, but he had difficulty translating the meaning of mchai-chai. It really sounded like the lady had brewed this special “tea-tea”. Now I was asking too many questions for my limited Swahili to keep up. 

What is Mcha-chai?

The Mayor was desperately trying to explain mchai-chai to me as we left the cafe and got into his vehicle. As we went through the day, I greatly enjoyed learning about the area, the needs, and their pride in the new clinic. After the clinic opening, the mayor asked his driver to stop by the local market so we could walk around the stalls. 

He was determined to demonstrate what mchai-chai was. I have an intense love for bartering in African markets so I was totally down for the mchai-chai search. As we walked through the stalls of the market, I saw the typical things at an African market. Goods like sugar cane, rice, vegetables and fruits, poultry, other grains like sorghum and flour were easy to identify.  

Finally we found mchai-chai. It was lemongrass. I would have never guessed that except that lemongrass has long been used as a tea. So it makes some sense that lemongrass would be translated in my head as “tea-tea” and it really is tea-tea. The words “chai tea” on Western menus have a similar effect, chai meaning tea translates as “tea-tea”. 

How to Use Lemongrass in Your Black Tea

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received about tea is that boiling water matters. What your water tastes like, your tea will also taste like. If you boil tea over an open fire, your tea will taste smoky. You would assume boiling tea water with lemongrass before steeping would result in lemongrass tea. 

However, you will get a milder black tea when you boil your tea water with stalks from the lemongrass plant and then use that water to steep your black tea. Adding lemongrass to black makes your regular tea a bit less bitter without adding sweetness. 

Growing fresh lemongrass is easy, but fresh lemongrass is rarely available for sale. If you want the freshest tasting lemongrass black tea, grow your own! Harvest it from low on the stalk, and use both the stalk and leaves when boiling your tea water. Once you taste lemongrass chai tea, you won’t skip this step ever again!

Hot chai tea in black mug with ingredients: Any Chai tea, lactose free milk and raw agave.

Making the perfect Lemongrass Chai Tea

When I first discovered Shafa Blends at a local farmers market. I quickly realized that their owner, Mr. Shafa, makes one one of a kind spice blends. Mr. Shafa introduced me to Any Chai mix when I was sampling his tea blends. He explained that you can add Any Chai to literally any tea and it will taste like chai tea. 

When I moved from Maryland, I made sure to stop at Shafa Blends in Gaithersburg to pick up several jars of Any Chai spice mix. I asked Mr. Shafa how he came up with the recipe. He told me he watched a well-known chai walla on YouTube and made his recipe from what he saw. Mr. Shafa’s spices are made with unique recipes designed to taste the way you’d expect a dish to taste. 

Mr. Shafa standing proudly in front of his spices at Shafa Blends in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

In the case of Any Chai, the chai walla on YouTube inspired Mr. Shafa to blend a spice that makes the perfect chai tea. The result is a fantastic blend of spices that allows you to create your own chai tea mix at home. I’ve even added Any Chai to hot chocolate to make Chai Hot Chocolate. 

High-quality ingredients that support small businesses are the best kind to invest in. Any Chai is a wicked value with each 1 oz. jar costing only $6 each. Of course like any spice, use it in a reasonable amount of time to ensure the freshest results.

Froth Your Chai Like a Pro

One of the downfalls of homemade chai lattes is the missing milk froth. That problem is easily solved without buying an expresso machine with a milk frother.

A small milk frothing wand starts at around $8 on Amazon and will easily create a foamy chai latte. Make sure to try this trick to using a milk frother with this drink: warm the milk in a separate cup and froth, then the milk glass contents to hte warmed chai tea glass. If you are drinking a iced chai latte, froth the milk first , add ice, then add the chai tea mix.

Frother and chai tea ingredients: lactose free milk, Agave in the Raw, Any Chai Spice and a black teacup with hot chai tea in front of a teal teapot steeping black tea.

Did you like this recipe?

Try one of the other wellness recipes on WellnessGrind.com! If you’re feeling under the weather try this Tumeric Ginger Lemon tea instead of your daily chai. You can even make it an iced tea treat by refrigerating it and adding Chia seeds.

Homemade Lemongrass Chai Tea

4 Easy Steps: 

1 Boil fresh lemongrass in water, steep black tea in lemongrass mixture.
2 Add Shafa blends Any Chai Spice and sweetener of choice.
3 Froth warm milk
4 Combine + enjoy!
Steps
1

Prepare Lemongrass Water

5 mins

If you are using fresh lemongrass, cut stalks low on the plant. Wash leaves and stalk. Tie leaves and stalk into a small bundle.  Place bundle in a pot.

If you are using lemongrass tea bags, place one teabag into a pot.

Boil water in a kettle and add to the pot with the lemongrass bundle. Continue boiling water and lemongrass for 5 minutes.

2

Steep Black Tea for the Chai Mix

10-12 minutes

The method you use for steeping your black tea will depend on the tools you have and the type of tea you are using. Here are three ways you can steep your favorite black tea to prepare Chai Tea Mix.

Preparing a batch of Chai Tea Mix will allow you to keep the base for your chai tea in the refrigerator for future use. You can also pre-sweeten the mix so you do not need to sweeten your chai in a later step.

During this step you will also add the Any Chai Mix to the tea as it steeps. The strength of your Chai tea depends on how much Any Chai tea you add and how long you steep it with the black tea. For stronger tea steep longer and add more Any Chai mix.

Method 1: Steep in a Teapot with Built-in Infuser

Add 2-3 Tbsp. ground or black tea leaves to the teapot. Add 1-2 tsp. Any Chai Mix to the black tea. Transfer boiling lemongrass water to the teapot. Steep for 10-12 minutes.

Method 2: Steep Using a Loose Tea Infuser

Add 2-3 Tbsp. ground or black tea leaves a tea infuser. Place infuser in a heat-proof glass container or large Mason Jar. Add 1-2 tsp. Any Chai Mix to the jar. Transfer boiling lemongrass water to the jar, using caution not to hold the glass as it may be hot. Steep for 10-12 minutes.

Method 3: Steep with Tea Bags

Add 2 teabags with black tea to a glass container or large Mason Jar. Place infuser in a heat-proof glass jar or large Mason Jar. Add 1-2 tsp. Any Chai Mix to the jar. Transfer boiling lemongrass water to the jar, using caution not to hold the glass as it may be hot. Steep for 10-12 minutes.

 

Optional: Add sweetener to the jar and 1/8th Tsp. Any Chai Mix directly to the tea after you have removed the infuser or tea bags.

 

If you are enjoying your chai tea later, place the jar in the refrigerator. If you are

3

Froth the Milk

For warm chai tea, microwave the milk product of your choice or heat over the stove. Warm enough for one cup filled 1/2 way with milk product. If you are lactose intolerant, try making your chai with Lactaid.

After warming, froth the milk using a handheld milk frother. Add Chai Tea Mix to desired strength filling at least 1/3rd of the cup with Chai Mix.

 

For iced chai tea, pour milk product of your choice in a tall glass. Froth the milk and add ice to fill glass 3/4ths full. Add Chai Mix to desired strength, filling at least 1/3 of the glass with Chai Tea Mix.

The Author
Published by
Wellness Grind
Hi, I'm Wendie! I'm a public health advocate, national leader in mental health promotion and a Level 2 Spin Power Certified indoor cycle instructor teaching in Germantown, MD and a Reiki practitioner. I'm currently exploring my personal wellness and hope to inspire wide-scale wellness practices through social change, health promotion, violence prevention, fitness and education.
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