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Sticky Christmas Chai

Recipe by Dr Sarah Lantz

Makes 1¼ cups (so double or triple the recipe)

I’ll let you in on a little secret, I’m a chai snob. Bona fide. And for good reason. How often have you ordered a chai at a cafe only to be served some warm milk with the faint taste of black tea? Or some soapy, sweet, pre-mix concentrate, something between a drink and a pudding? In my mind, it highlights how the western world takes something from a different culture and changes it…and for the worst.

So, there’s chai and then there’s chai. You with me? A good chai delicately caresses you with aromatic spices and a hint of sweetness which richly infuses the milk in which it’s brewed, so that every sip transports you to an antiquated ashram in India or reminds you of the smell of Christmas. That first moment when you’ve taken a sip of really good chai really is one of the priceless milliseconds in the history of humanity where all is truly right with the world.

When only the best will do, then making it yourself is the only way to go. The secret to a good chai is using good quality whole spices (not the ground stuff that’s been lurking in the back of your pantry for years). So, go to a spice shop or bulk food store and buy some fresh stuff. You won’t regret it. The ‘stickiness’ comes from the honey (or rice malt syrup if you’re vegan), fresh ginger and turmeric. The stickiness keeps the flavours alive, and because of this, it’s usually kept wet in a glass jar in the fridge. Try it and you’ll pick up what I’m putting down.


  • 1 tablespoon of cardamom pods
  • 4 cinnamon quills, broken up into pieces
  • 6 cloves
  • 4 star anise
  • ¼ teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 cup Roasted Dandelion or Black Tea or Roobios tea leaves (or a combo)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean powder (or 2 whole vanilla beans split and cut)
  • 2 tablespoon finely grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon warmed honey (or more to ensure stickiness)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice.


  1. Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon, star anise and fennel seeds and toast for 1-2 minutes or until lightly toasted. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and lightly bash to break spices into smaller pieces.
  2. Place the tea in a small bowl and stir through the toasted spices, adding in the vanilla, ginger, turmeric and lemon juice.
  3. Heat the honey until it’s a runny consistency and then stir it through the chai blend. Transfer it to a small glass jar and keep refrigerated.
  4. To make a delicious chai for two, place a tablespoon of chai and 1 cup of hot water in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat. Add 1 cup of milk of your choice and place back over the heat, stirring, until it comes to a simmer. Remove from the heat immediately. Let it steep for another few minutes to let the flavours develop.  Pour into your favourite mug and sprinkle with some ground cinnamon.

Optional Extras:

¾ cup (60g) Shredded Coconut

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