Irani chai is a unique form of tea unlike any other version of Indian chai, made by the addition of mawa or khoya to black tea. The result is a sweet and creamy chai—the addition of spices like cinnamon and green cardamom is optional. While the exact ratios for Irani chai is a secret closely held by most Irani café owners, this recipe gets you the same taste and flavor.
Mawa or khoya is used in the preparation of many Indian desserts and is prepared by simmering large quantities of full-fat milk in wide pans for several hours until all the liquid has evaporated and only the pale-yellow milk solids remain. The milk solids are then removed and either sold commercially or used as needed. You can purchase mawa or khoya at most Indian grocery stores across America, but if it’s hard to find, use dry milk powder (a good but not perfect substitute).
- Bring the water to a rolling boil in a medium saucepan. Add the tea leaves and reduce heat, then continue to boil for about 20 minutes until the volume reduces by half. Remove from heat and filter through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the tea leaves. Keep warm.
- In a separate large saucepan, heat the milk on medium heat and bring to a boil. Stir constantly until the milk is reduced to 1½ cups. Whisk in the mawa, khoya, or dry milk powder until smooth and continue to cook until it thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Mix the filtered tea and the reduced milk mixture. Sweeten if desired, divide between two cups, and serve hot.
- Note: You can also add ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of ground green cardamom to the tea when brewing, if desired.
Nik Sharma is an award-winning freelance food writer and photographer. He also writes a recipe-based food column for the San Francisco Chronicle called A Brown Kitchen and is also the author of the blog A Brown Table. His first cookbook, Season (Chronicle Books), was published in October 2018. He lives in Oakland, California.