Zero-Waste Chai Concentrate at Home


Now that Spring’s returned to the Pacific Northwest, so has my favorite morning activity: drinking my morning cup of chai in the sunshine. I love the drink, but had a hard time finding it in low-waste packaging in the United States. That’s when I decided to learn about how to make chai concentrate in my own home. 

Before going any further, I want to acknowledge that I am a white woman writing about chai at a time when attacks against our Asian-American, Pacific Islander friends and family are at the forefront of the media and many Americans’ minds. It needs to be understood that you cannot enjoy the products of Asian culture without being there for the AAPI community. Today and always.

The history of chai is drenched in many different stories of how and where it originated from. Origins ranged from China and India to Siam anywhere between 5,000 to 9,000 years ago. Priya Krishna wrote an incredible article in Food&Wine about the history of this lovely beverage, and I encourage you to read if you’re curious!

I was introduced to chai making my freshman year of high school in my culinary class I was taking. Since then, I have experimented and tweaked my recipe to my liking. I made a batch and ended up bringing everyone a cup at the Eco Collective, we chatted about the process, and to my excitement, everyone was pretty interested in how I was making my chai concentrate!

How to make chai concentrate:

You’ll start by gathering your supplies:

  • Large Pot or Saucepan
  • Strainer
  • Funnel
  • Container or Bottle
  • 8 Cups of Water
  • 8 TBSP of Black Tea or Green Tea: This can be whatever loose leaf you prefer; I’ve linked my favorite here from a local favorite tea shop in Ballard, WA.
  • 2 TBSP of Whole Peppercorns
  • 1 TBSP of Cloves
  • 2 TBSP of Cardamon
  • 3 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 10 Whole Star Anise
  • 3 INCHES of Freshly Grated Ginger
  • 2 TBSP of Vanilla Extract
  • Sweetener (As Desired)

    Bring your water up to a boil, then add in your choice of tea and let that steep for roughly 10 minutes. This allows the flavor of the tea to develop outside of the added spices. Then add all of your spices; feel free to adjust as you want - my recipe changes every time depending on my mood as I make it! Bring the heat down to a simmer and allow your chai mixture to simmer on low for 3-4 hours.

    Once the time has passed, let it cool down a bit and then funnel and strain into a container. I suggest using a filter like the Nut Milk or Cold Brew filter, as the filter allows you to keep the concentrate free of leftover pieces of tea ingredients. Using a mason jar funnel, I pour the chai into a reusable bottle. (I personally like to use a jug from Rachel’s Ginger Beer here in Seattle, WA!) Once you’ve bottled it up, keep it refrigerated.

    Before I start my day or head off to work, I pull out my concentrate from the fridge, add milk and sugar, microwave, and take the moment to relax. I am a big fan of adding honey or agave as my sweetener, but recently have been using sugar in the mornings as each sweetener gives the chai a slightly different flavor.

    Don't have time to DIY your chai?

    No worries. There are also a few options out there that still allow you to enjoy chai without all of the trash associated with grocery bottled chai concentrates. 

    1. Blue Lotus Chai allows you to mix in a powder into a cup of milk to create a lovely and light chai latte. They have a variety of flavors, so you will find a taste that suits you. I’m personally a big fan of the traditional Masala Chai.
    2. Miro Tea in Seattle, WA, ships a range of Chai blends that you can add milk and sweetener to for your morning cup. I found the Rooibos Chai to have many new and exciting flavors that differ from a Masala Chai.

    Good luck with your chai adventures!