Kesar chai is a combo of strands of saffron and black tea stepped in creamy milk to create a sweet and decadent warm drink.
Kesar is the Hindi word for saffron. Saffron is one of the most expensive spices out there with 1g of the high quality saffron ranging from $10-$20 US dollars. This is a luxurious and decadent chai fit for a queen. Drink it on its own or host a tea party with your *bestest* friends to serve this lavish tea.
- Black CTC tea - It's important to use black CTC tea for a strong cup of chai. You can learn more about this type of tea, its substitutes, and why it makes the best cup of chai in this detailed blog post. However, if you want to skip right to the brand recommendation, I suggest Red Label for your chai needs.
- Water and Milk - I use a 1:1 ratio of milk to water in my chai for a creamy result. Tweak the ratio for your perfect cup.
What is saffron?
Saffron that is used in cooking are the stigmas or the female portion of the saffron flower. It has a floral, sweet, and delicate taste and helps dye dishes a light yellow color. You can learn more about saffron in this blog post all about this ingredient.
It is important to bloom saffron
When using saffron, it is important to bloom the saffron in water to help the saffron release its yellow color and aroma. Saffron has a hard time blooming when fat is present so it is best to do it in water. For the kesar chai, we can simply bloom the saffron in the boiling water at the same time as the tea granules.
Kesar chai vs. other chais
- Kesar chai features only the one spice which is saffron whereas masala chai is made up of many spices.
- Kesar chai uses whole spices for a delicate chai whereas masala chai uses a chai spice blend to create a very spice forward drink.
- Kesar chai is floral which is similar to rose chai but is much more delicate compared to a spicier ginger chai.
What pairs well with kesar chai
Kesar chai is a delicate chai that I love serving at fancy Indian tea parties. My two favorite things to pair with this tea are chai sugar cookies and kaju katli which is a diamond shaped cashew fudge.
Frequently Asked Questions
Loose Leaf CTC black tea or crush, tear, curl black tea is best for chai as it provides a strong tea flavor that can stand up to the spices in chai. Red Label black CTC tea is a brand I recommend.
Chai inherently is a creamy drink that is brewed with milk and spices. If you avoid milk because you are lactose intolerant, you can substitute lactose-free milk. Other alternative milks that are great in chai are oat milk and almond milk!
You can swap out CTC black tea, which is traditionally used in chai, for rooibos, which is a decaffeinated tea, to make a chai without caffeine. You can learn more about decaf chai as well as the full recipe in this detailed blog post.
Follow the recipe below for chai but slightly reduce the amount of water to account for the ice that will dilute the chai later. Chai can be made up to a week in advance, filtered, and stored in the fridge until ready to be consumed. You can find the exact recipe and more tips on making iced chai in this detailed blog post.
You can simply drink chai without sugar for a sugar-free chai. Alternatively, you can use unrefined sugar like jaggery or honey to sweeten chai.
Chai is served for breakfast as well as around tea time which is anywhere between 3:30pm to 5pm. But really, chai can be had at anytime of day. If you are sensitive to caffeine either avoid chai late at night or substitute black tea with rooibos for a decaffeinated option.