Nik’s Masala Chai

Nik Sharma’s masala chai recipe combines fresh ginger with green cardamom, black tea, and milk for a gently spiced and perfectly balanced cup. Cinnamon, sugar, and smokey black cardamom are optional (but highly recommended!). Get the recipe here.

Sunday was one of the most fun days I’ve spent in a while. It began with coffee and pastries at Sightlglass with Phi of Princess Tofu. The record player was spinning old-school blues, our croissant was stuffed with pistachio frangipane and blackberry jam, and our coffeecake boasted ample streusel, fresh figs and plums.

We took the scenic 280 down to Santa Clara where we met Nik of A Brown Table, his dog Snoopy, and the flock of ducks that lives on his street. He served us apple halva in tiny cups, a thick sorbet kissed with saffron and cardamom, before we headed to his favorite chaat house for Indian street food.

We gorged on tiny, spiced vegetable sliders, crispy puris filled with yogurt that shatter in your mouth, and battered paneer (fried cheese!) dipped in tamarind sauce and mint chutney. Afterwards we stopped at a teeming Indian market to pick up some jaggery and butternut squash, then at a pumpkin patch where Phi showed us how to get ahead in life. Back at Nik’s, we learned how to make masala chai Nik’s way, and Phi whipped up one of her awesome culinary creations for dinner. We raided Nik’s prop cabinet, played with cameras, and talked a lot about this funny little world of food blogging.

Masala chai always seemed like a big production to me, requiring an hour or more to make, so Nik wowed me by just throwing a batch together in a matter of minutes and without consulting a recipe. His method turns out a perfectly spiced pot with just the right amount of milk, and the sugar is optional. I mentioned that I’d been wanting to try a chai with black cardamom, which is a different variety of the spice that gets dried over wood smoke and takes on a campfirey flavor. Nik added a pod, which gave the chai an addicting smokiness that I couldn’t stop thinking about that night (and not just because I was wired and couldn’t sleep).

I made a batch at home yesterday with the ginger, green cardamom, black cardamom, and cinnamon. I used 1 1/2 tablespoons decaf black tea since it was late in the afternoon, and I added milk and a touch of unrefined muscobado sugar that I had on hand.

Nik’s masala chai is going to be my new routine, one that I plan to make on a daily (if not hourly) basis.

Get the recipe on Nik’s lovely blog, A Brown Table, and check out his five easy Indian dishes that everyone can make on Food & Wine today (including masala chai ice cream!).

38 thoughts on “Nik’s Masala Chai”

  1. Gahhh, your photos get better with EVERY blog post. These are just exquisite and make me want good authentic chai so badly. You are a photography QUEEN!! :)

  2. I love chai and can't wait to try this at home! It's among my favourite drinks – cinnamony and creamy and sweet! I have a thing for tea cups and these are super lovely.

  3. Wow! Stunning pictures! Great action shot and gorgeous composition with the jeans/tea cup.

    And I'm totally craving this chai now. With drinks like this pretty one, I may get used to this season.

    1. Thanks you Denise! Phi and Nik are super fun to work with and helped style all the shots. I too am planning to drink this all throughout fall and winter.

  4. Ooh, homemade chai sounds just about perfect–must try. Sounds like you guys had an amazing day! I, of course, need to go to Chaat Bhavan now. You have to love the sheer volume of terrific Indian food in the south bay :) (Have you ever been to Sakoon in downtown MTV? So good!)

    1. I think you're gonna love this version, Eileen! And Chaat Bhavan, too. I've never tried Sakoon but I'm putting it on my list – thanks for the recommendation!

  5. I've always thought that chai takes for ever to make but then again all things that are good are worth waiting for! Thank you for sharing such gorgeous photos. You three together make such a dream team!

    1. Totally! I didn't mind waiting so long for chai, but I was also thrilled to learn Nik's process which is much faster and the results are just as tasty. The three of us are having way too much fun together!

  6. Isn't Nik the best? I was sad when he left DC but I'm glad he's found some awesome, talented bloggers to hang out with in California. I told him I'm coming to visit at some point and I want to meet everyone! :)

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