Classic Punjabi Cha (Not Chai) Straight From a Punjabi Mom

Punjabi cha straining in glass
Prep Time
3 min
Cook Time
3 min
2 servings

Some say chai, others say chai tea, which is completely wrong as it translates to tea-tea. People from Punjab called it cha (not chai). Every Indian family has their own way of making cha, but this is the real deal — an authentic cup made by my mom, which is the backdrop of many childhood memories for me. My mom grew up in a small village in Punjab in the ’60s. Back then, simple spices such as cardamom pods were a bit of a speciality item used in tea when guests came over, as the pods would perfume the house. Note this isn’t masala cha, just an everyday cha that is so flavourful and easy to make.



tsp fennel seeds
cardamom pods
1 ¼
cup water
Tbsp loose leaf black tea
Tbsp jaggery
cup homogenized milk


Punjabi cha ingredients on a countertop
Step 1

Crush the fennel seeds and cardamom pods together in a mortar and pestle, until pods open up and their aroma is released.

Step 2

Over medium heat, pour water into the pot and simmer, not boil. Add spices to the water. Simmer for about 2 minutes. Add tea. Simmer for 30 seconds.

Step 3

Add jaggery. Turn up the heat to boil for 45 seconds. Add milk. Boil for 30 seconds. Watch to make sure the cha doesn’t boil over.

Punjabi cha boiling on stovetop
Step 4

Using a mesh strainer, strain cha directly into two teacups evenly.

Step 5

With the back of a spoon, squeeze out the extra spices and tea flavour from the strainer directly into the individual cups. Enjoy!

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