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Deliciously Dairy-Free

Our homemade chai is one of my favorite beverages.  Ever.  Since we make two gallons of it at each store every day, it seems to be one of yours too. It’s the perfect cold weather drink -- sweet and spicy with a thick creaminess.  Delish.  However, many customers can’t have dairy -- therefore, no TeaSource Chai (so sad).  Recently we received an email requesting a non-dairy chai solution.   So I’ve come up with some possible solutions for those chai-deprived souls. It would be great if it was as easy as using your favorite non-dairy milk, but the consistency of the milk is so important.  First of all, it gives the final cup a creamy thickness.  Secondly, it helps evenly disperse the spices.  We can’t mix the spices straight into milk because they would sink to the bottom.  So, I needed to thicken some non-dairy milk.
Bill Waddington, owner of TeaSource (and lactose intolerant) suggested using almond milk. I made a sweetened condensed milk (see recipe below) by adding sugar and reducing it on the stove.  After it cooled, I added a tablespoon of spices and stored it in the fridge overnight. Another popular non-dairy substitution for sweetened condensed milk is Cream of Coconut, which is usually used in alcoholic drinks like Pina Coladas; it’s naturally very thick and sweet.   I added a tablespoon of spice mix to 1 cup of cream of coconut and refrigerated it overnight. You can also use coconut milk.  It’s already pretty thick, so I sweetened it up with ¼ cup of honey and reduced it to 1 cup.   Then, I added 1 tablespoon of chai spice followed by a night in the refrigerator.

Chillin’ in the fridge

The next morning, I took my mason jars of chai goop into our St. Anthony store and steeped up some Breakfast Assam as the base for my chai experiments. Let me pause for just a minute and say this: none of these non-dairy solutions will have the same taste and feel as the original dairy TeaSource Chai.  It can’t be the same because we can’t use the same ingredients.  So, from here on, let’s try not to compare it to the original.

chai samplesHere were my results:

1) Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk (made with honey) – I had the most hope for this since it was a naturally thicker milk while still tasting and looking creamy.  The reduced milk also had the closest consistency to the dairy sweetened condensed milk.  It was creamy and sweet, but the least spicy of them all.

2) Sweetened Condensed Almond Milk (made with sugar) – This one was the first one I tried, and at first it felt thin.  But after sampling it and the others multiple times, it grew on me.  It was the spiciest and the creamiest of the three.

3) Cream of Coconut – I was so nervous about this one because of the strong coconut smell.  However, I was really surprised with how well it cupped.  It was creamy and spicy.  This one had the closest mouthfeel to the original chai (oops, we’re trying not to compare to the original).  Of the three, this one was the sweetest with a fun tropical hint that didn’t annoy me.

In the end, my favorite of these non-dairy chai mixes was the almond milk.  Now this is only my opinion and I recognize that we all have different preferences and tastes -- I tend to prefer less sweet and more savory things.  However, if I wanted to go with the easiest solution (because let’s face it…I am a working mom of young children and have little time) I would make the cream of coconut and save myself from standing over a stove for 45 minutes constantly stirring milk while it reduced. IMG_1453-1 I would be curious to hear about what you think of these suggestions.  Have you tried any other techniques for adding some sort of non-dairy milk or cream to your tea?  What’s your favorite way to make Chai?  Tell us in the comments below!

**Something else to note: Because of space and health code restrictions, TeaSource is unable to offer these non-dairy options in our stores.  Bummer, I know. 

-Sarah Walker
TeaSource “Tech Guru”  


Non-Dairy Sweetened Condensed Milk

  • 3 cups non-dairy milk of your choice
  • ½ cup of sugar (or try your favorite sweetener)
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
Mix in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook (don’t forget to stir the pot occasionally!) until the milk has reduced to 1 cup.  Remove from heat and let cool. To make Chai “Goop”: Add 1 tablespoon of TeaSource Chai Spice Mix to 1 cup of non-dairy sweetened condensed milk.  Refrigerate overnight (or 8 hours).  Add “goop” (to taste) to a cup of strong black tea – we suggest Breakfast Assam.  Cheers!
Tags: Tea Geek


  • Posted by teasourcemgr on

    Thanks for the thoughts! Using a non-dairy milk to make milk tea is a great suggestion. I will have to give both of your techniques a try! -Sarah

  • Posted by Michelle on

    I recently tried making the chai goop with sweetened condensed coconut milk (Let’s Do organic brand), and it works well! There is a bit of an oil slick on top that doesn’t occur with regular sweetened condensed milk, but it’s certainly faster than reducing your own non-dairy milk. It’s another option to try.

  • Posted by Pamela Strick on

    Since the first posting I’ve used the sweetened condensed coconut milk to make chai goop. But after adding it to tea I add a non dairy creamer to get that creamy consistency. I also make the goop a little spicier than normal. It seems to get as close to the original taste and mouthfeel as possible.

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