A simple step by step method to make the best karak chai, or karak tea, a delicious strong, milky spiced tea that’s caramel colored and absolutely comforting and delicious.
What is karak chai?
Karak chai or chai karak, or karak tea is a very commonly consumed tea in the Gulf region of the Middle East. It it similar to masala chai, but with less spices. You could make a chai karak with just tea, milk and sugar. Masala chai usually has peppercorns, cinnamon, whole spices, etc.
I think this recipe is a happy medium. It has just enough spices to be comforting, warming and delicious without being overpowering.
Where did karak chai originate?
In India, where it is commonly consumed in teahouses, but the word “chai” actually comes from a Persian word “chay” meaning tea. It has become hugely popular in places like Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Saudi, and more GCC states. It’s also become well known in Britain, where restaurants like Dishoom have popularized it.
Chai spices are commonly seen all over the world now, with things like chai lattes, and chai spiced cookies trending. The usual spices in are cardamom, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon.
Why should I make this chai karak?
Because I scoured the internet and the advice of my Instagram followers and combed through so many different iterations of karak to find my perfect recipe. This sums up the best parts of all those recipes!
I made sure to keep the recipe easy, simple, and with accessible easy to find ingredients.
Karak chai is packed with comforting flavor. Milky and sweet and warm and a little spicy. It’s absolutely perfect for winter (or any time really!)
It’s not too sweet and not too spicy and not too strong. The balance is really what I like most about this recipe!
Karak tea ingredients:
You need a few straightforward ingredients to make this delicious karak tea.
Sugar: You can use white or brown. I used white sugar, which I caramelized in the pot before adding the rest of the ingredients. YUM!! You can totally skip the caramelizing step and just dissolve the sugar in the water.
Water: It’s easier to use hot water, so that the pot comes to a boil faster.
Tea: Use black tea of your choice. It seems in the Gulf, everyone has a preference, whether it’s Lipton, or red label. I used loose leaves in this recipe, then strained them out. You can use tea bags instead, and I added that option to the recipe card.
Ginger: I added a few slices of fresh ginger, since I am definitely a ginger fan. Three slices was just enough, not overpowering in the least. You could use 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of ginger powder instead, or leave the ginger out completely if you aren’t a fan!
Spices: I kept it suuuper simple. Cardamom pods, since cardamom is usually the star of karak tea, a tiny pinch of saffron for the beautiful fragrance and flavor it gives, as well as whole cloves. You can add more or less of anything you like.
I’ve seen recipes with whole peppercorns which I’d love to try next time, as well as cinnamon sticks or cinnamon powder. Feel free to add those if that appeals to you!
Milk: Traditionally, evaporated milk is used. It’s thick and creamy, but not sweet so you can instead control the sweetness with sugar. I added one small can and it was perfect, but add in more (or less !) if you like. You can even use cardamom flavored evaporated milk, widely available in the Middle East, and reduce the cardamom pods by half.
Dairy free karak:
Some people have come back to me that they’ve tried karak with oat milk, almond milk or coconut milk. I’d love to know if you’ve tried this with dairy alternatives, so leave a comment below!
How to make karak tea:
- If caramelizing the sugar, add that first to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Allow the sugar to melt, undisturbed, until it turns into a liquid and then changes color to an amber caramel color.
- Once the sugar has caramelized into a liquid, slowly stream in the hot water. Stir to combine. If you don’t want to caramelize the sugar, you can add the sugar and hot water together to the saucepan, and stir until sugar dissolves.
- Add the tea, the ginger, and all the spices. Let this mixture come to a boil, and simmer for 5-7 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the milk, and simmer for as long as you need for the tea to thicken and reduce slightly. Don’t worry if a skin forms on the milk, you’ll strain that out.
- Transfer to a tea pot, straining out all the whole spices and tea leaves. Enjoy!
What to serve karak chai with:
Karak is very versatile. It is a great tea for breakfast, for an afternoon snack, or paired with a sweet treat.
I love this with anything sweet. Something as simple as Marie biscuits, or some Turkish delight. I will drink karak with any loaf cake, cookie, muffin or brownie in sight. That’s why I like making it not overly sweet, so it can be enjoyed with dessert.
This is also amazing with fried foods, like samosas, donuts, savory or sweet dumplings. It also goes great with breakfasts foods! (Especially balaleet, another very typical Khaleeji Gulf dish.
I love having karak with these addictive mini cream cheese puff pastry bites!
Storing leftover karak:
I’ve stored leftover karak in the fridge and rewarmed it in the microwave. It tastes great, but I’ve only stored it overnight so I can’t recommend longer storage.
If you liked this recipe, you might like:
- 4 tbsp white sugar 50 g
- 4 cups hot water
- 2 tbsp loose black tea or 3 tea bags, like lipton red label orenglish breakfast
- 6 pods whole cardamom
- 3 whole cloves
- pinch saffron threads (like 5-6 threads)
- 3 slices of whole ginger root, or pinch of ginger powder optional
- 2/3 cup evaporated milk 170g
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the sugar. Let the sugar melt and caramelize without stirring or disturbing it. Once it has turned a golden caramel, slowly stream in the hot water. (If some parts of the sugar clump and harden, don't worry they'll melt as the water boils).
- Add the tea, the cardamom, cloves, saffron, and ginger. Boil for 5-7 minutes or so until spices are fragrant, then add the evaporated milk.
- Lower the heat slightly until tea is at a steady, low simmer. Simmer for 8-10 minutes until tea thickens slightly.
- Transfer the tea to a tea pot, using a strainer while pouring so you can separate the tea leaves and spices.
- Enjoy hot! Utter comfort.
Karak Chai (Masala Tea) by everylittlecrumb on Jumprope.