In my culture chai tea does not exist. My family is Dominican, and I was born and raised in New York City. From since I could remember until I turned 16, I grew up following the same traditions as my parents—drinking coffee accompanied by toast the minute I got out of bed. I know what you're thinking; I started drinking coffee early, right? Maybe that's why I neglect it now. 

A few years ago I was introduced to a new caffeine tradition after marrying a Bengali native in 2007. Something called chai tea, which was served to me for the first time at my in-laws' home. This is where my chai obsession began. I’m now a huge fan of chai tea. I've been drinking and blending my own chai tea for years, which I now mostly serve and offer to guests in our home (as a Bengali tradition).

At its most basic, chai tea consists of black tea, sugar and milk. In many cases people add their own little twists by adding cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and other common household spices. The word 'chai' is Hindi and it simply means tea. Chai originated from South Asia and since then it's become very popular all over the world. Whether you call it 'masala' chai or simply chai, it's the same thing.

Over the years I’ve learned that the most memorable times for a Bengali are catching up on everyone’s day during nasta. This is the time where everyone gathers together to chat, discuss, plan, or simply gossip while enjoying snacks, sweets (mishti), and a cup of chai tea, of course. Believe it or not, the most memorable times I've had with my husband’s family involved drinking chai tea. This goes to show how important chai tea is to Bengali traditions and how this particular South Asian tradition has captured my heart.

The right way to make tea is by decoction (a method of extraction by boiling off dissolved chemicals from herbal or plant material), but we've come a long way from that. Now they sell tea bags in every market, which makes our lives much easier.

If you're a tea lover, or just a caffeine addict, you're going to love this chai recipe!

Homemade Chai

Homemade Bengalese Inspired Chai Tea

Serves: 4
Time: 10 minutes


  • 2 cups water
  • 4 bags black tea
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Cardamom
  • Sugar

In a small pot add four black tea bags with one small cinnamon stick and cardamom in two cups of water. Boil for seven to ten minutes until reduced halfway. In a different pot boil one cup of whole milk. Add the boiled milk to the tea and sweeten with sugar. Continue to boil for two minutes. Serve hot.

Johnnybell Sanchez

Johnnybell Sanchez is a creative mind, as the founder and editor of, a website bringing you fun experiences, beauty and fashion trends, delicious recipes and lots of smiles. Johnnybell has been featured on CBS' The Couch, AOL Style, The New York Times, Lucky Magazine, and Cosmo For Latinas, and she was nominated as one of the 'top 20 New York City experts' by in 2014. She loves traveling and discovering new trends, cultures and traditions around the world while playing dress up and sharing it all with her readers.  

Johnnybell is one of our culture bloggers for The Opener, an exclusive, invite-only contributor network that will bring the best food, culture and innovation writing to the pages of Coca-Cola Journey.