Sugar-Free Chai Tea

Fresh ginger and spices steeped with tea and milk for a cold-weather comfort drink.

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea
Pat Schneider, poet,
from The Patience of Ordinary Things

“Oooh. Something smells good!” I just love to hear those words, so much that some times I put a cinnamon stick on the stove to simmer, just for the aroma – and the reaction.

(LANGUAGE POLICE Think of all the English words we have that describe our olfactory sensations, aroma, yes, but also scent, smell, stench, fragrance and odor. My books on word usage make little distinction except that aroma is the word most closely tied to food. Perhaps, methinks, aroma is in the nose of the be-smeller.)

Right, back to the chai tea, first made for my cookie swap back in December. I made it a day ahead and honestly, was unimpressed. But the next day, I reheated it anyway – and lo, when my fellow cookie-bakers were arriving if I didn’t hear those much-sought words, “Oooh. Something smells good!”

We all loved the stuff. Ever since, I’ve kept a jug in the fridge, ready for rewarming a cup at a time. It feels New Year resolution-ish, what with milk and all. Try it first without a sweetener, letting the spices themselves subtly sweeten the milk.

ALANNA's TIPS For tea, I recommend a strong tea rather than a delicate herbal tea. Canadian readers, you’ll be pleased to know that I’ve been making Sugar-Free Chai Tea with Red Rose orange pekoe tea! Here’s a quick trick for keeping a cup of hot tea or coffee hotter longer. While the tea is steeping or the coffee percing, fill the mugs with hot tap water. That way, the hot liquid gets poured into warm mugs, all the better. For those who watch calories, dontcha be thinkin’ that commercial and coffeehouse chai teas are low-calorie or even contain real milk. This is a recipe for homemade chai tea made with real spices, real tea and real milk. No label reading required.


Just good ginger, good spices, good tea and good milk. Just good.
Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Time to table: 1 -1/4 hours but best if flavors meld for 24 hours
Makes about 8 cups
  • 8 cups water
  • One piece of fresh ginger, about 3 inches long, washed and sliced thin cross-wise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 2 pieces star anise
  • 16 whole cloves
  • 20 cardamom whole seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

  • 3 tea bags (see TIPS)
  • 3 cups skim milk
  • Honey, agave, maple syrup to taste (optional)

In a large pot, combine the water, ginger and spices. Cover, bring to a boil and let simmer for 30 minutes. (Even with the pot covered, a good third of the water will evaporate.) Turn off the heat. Pour liquid through a strainer and discard the ginger and spices. Rinse out the pot with hot water, pour the liquid back in. Add the tea bags, cover and let steep for 15 minutes. Remove the tea bags. Add the milk. If serving right away, reheat the liquid but do not boil. Pour into hot mugs (see TIPS). If needed, sweeten to taste. If not serving right away, let cool, then transfer to a carafe and refrigerate. Rewarm to serve, sweetening to taste if needed.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Cup (without sweetener): 39Cal; 0g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 1mg Cholesterol; 58mg Sodium; 6g Carb; 0g Fiber; 0g Sugar; 4g Protein; Weight Watchers 0 points
NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Cup (with 1 teaspoon honey): 60Cal; 0g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 1mg Cholesterol; 59mg Sodium; 11g Carb; 0g Fiber; 6g Sugar; 4g Protein; Weight Watchers 1 point

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences.
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Alanna Kellogg

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  1. Me and my wife are big tea drinkers so I would love to try this. Hell, I think I just might!

  2. Chai I can have!!
    Can I tell you how much I am loving you and thank you for the chai recipe?!
    I have always loved the 'aroma' but have shied away from it because of the enormous amount of sugar and calories. I am a diabetic and that kind of ties in with a life style now.
    I LOVE Red Rose Tea! I have to get the decaf variety, but it is as good as the regular variety, IMHO. I was introduced to Red Rose on a trip to Canada, just over the border into Fort Frances from International Falls over 30 years ago. There just isn't any better black tea around.

  3. Oh, this is good! My husband said the aroma was intoxicating, and I'd have to agree. No more Tazo Chai and all it's sugar for me. I just started Weight Watchers again and found you through a weight watchers recipes search. I linked to this fabulous chai recipe on my blog. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I can't wait to try this! I've recently had diabetic complications and so I've been watching my sugars cloasely. Thanks!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna