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Iced Oat Milk Chai

Chai it. You'll like it!

A little shy of 2 quarts


About 45 minutes, plus at least 8 hours of chilling


We have never sampled chai in its homeland. But we’re certain that some components—maybe most of them—got lost in translation when chai became a syrupy, super-sweet, generically spiced commercial concentrate poured from a box, diluted with milk, and served in a plastic cup.

But since we, like the next guy, cannot resist spice, sweet, and a little caffeine, we brewed up a recipe for homemade chai. It starts with whole spices bashed in a mortar and finishes with a gentle buzz in the back of the throat from the rush of fresh ginger and black peppercorns. Turbinado sugar adds sweetness and a soupçon of molasses, loose-leaf black tea anchors the infusion with tannins, and ice shakes everything together. Part of that everything is oat milk, made with Anson Mills toasted stone-cut oats, which provides a nutty, creamy elegance. Soothing yet energizing, this chai may not be canonical, but it tastes damn good.

Cooking Remarks

Peeling fresh ginger is a pain, especially when the quantity is generous, as it is for this recipe. So instead, we use a vegetable brush or non-scratching sponge and give the ginger a good scrub under running water to remove any dirt. We slice it thinly, then pound the slices, which bruises the ginger and helps its flavor to be drawn out more easily.

Not all turbinado sugars are the same. Some are quite dark in color and assertive in bittersweet molasses notes. We recommend using a pale golden brown turbinado so the flavor highlights rather than competes with the spices, oats, and tea.

The chai tastes best after the flavors have a chance to mingle and meld for at least 8 hours. And we find the spice and oat notes to be fuller and more complex—and the sting of the ginger and pepper more thrilling—in chai that’s cold, but if you’d like to serve it warm, heat it gently and don’t allow it near a simmer, as the starches in the oats will thicken the brew. However you serve it, iced or steaming warm, make sure to stir the chai well before pouring as the oat milk separates on standing.

equipment mise en place

For this recipe, you will need a medium saucepan, a mortar and pestle, a large fine-mesh strainer, a medium bowl, and a pitcher or large jars for storage.

    • 4
      cups spring or filtered water
    • 3
      (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
    • 4
      teaspoons black peppercorns
    • 15
      green cardamom pods
    • 20
      whole cloves
    • 3
      ounces fresh ginger, scrubbed well but unpeeled
    • 0.5
      ounces (3 tablespoons) loose-leaf Assam or Ceylon tea
    • 3.5
      ounces (scant ½ cup) light turbinado sugar
    • ¼
      teaspoon fine sea salt
    • ¼
      teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1
      recipe Homemade Oat Milk, well stirred
    • Ice, for serving

    Thinly slice the ginger, then use the pestle to gently pound the slices against the cutting board until they’re bruised and split. Add the ginger to the saucepan, then bring the mixture to a strong simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the pan and let steep for about 20 minutes.


    Bring the infusion back to a boil over medium-high heat, then stir in the tea. Cover the pan once again and let steep for 5 minutes. Make sure to set a timer, as oversteeping the tea will result in an astringent, too-tannic chai.


    Pour the water into a medium saucepan. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the cinnamon sticks into small bits, then empty them into the saucepan. Do the same with the peppercorns, then the cardamom pods, and finally the cloves.


    Set a large fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl and pour the infusion into the strainer. Gently press on the solids to remove additional liquid. You will have about 3 cups.)  Add the sugar, salt, and vanilla, then stir until the sugar fully dissolves. Pour in the oat milk and stir, or if your oat milk is in a large-enough container (that is, one with at least a 2-quart capacity), pour the infusion into it and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 4 days.


    Stir the chai to recombine, then pour into glasses filled with ice.

recipe developed by Dawn Yanagihara