Khaleeji morning rituals: Sweet ‘Karak’ tea recipe

Tea is practically an institution in the Middle East and North Africa. In Turkey, strong black tea is served in tiny glasses with copious amounts of sugar, while Morocco is famous for sugary mint tea (atay). Meanwhile in the Gulf, the favourite is karak, a sweet, cardamom and saffron flavoured chai made with evaporated milk.

In fact, the very smell of cardamom is enough to take me back to Muscat, where the best mornings start with a steaming cup of sweet karak chai and a serving of khubz Omani – a thin, papery bread filled with cream cheese and honey, served folded like a crêpe.

Omani breakfast karak teaBreakfast in Oman – Khubz Omani and Karak tea (image: Foodishly in Love)

In most of the Gulf – and particularly Oman and Qatar, you’ll find a tea shop serving karak chai on every corner. Qatar has even exported its breakfast/coffee shop chain, Chapati & Karak, to London, with a conveniently located café in Knightsbridge, right across the road from Harrod’s.

The Karak tea recipe is similar to that of the masala chai enjoyed in India and Pakistan. The base ingredients of black tea, evaporated milk, water and sugar are the same, but the spices differ from country to country, adding nuance and local flavours. In the Gulf, it’s the cardamom that gives karak its unmistakeable taste (and delicious smell!).

karak chai tea DubaiIn coffee shops, Karak is served in small glasses or paper takeaway cups (image: Dubai Cravings)

The secret to good karak: The trick with karak tea is to repeatedly bring it almost to the boil and then remove it from the heat just as it’s about to boil over. Another important tip is to use green cardamom pods instead of black ones, because of their superior flavour.

Whether you’re missing the khaleeji flavours or are just looking for a spicy twist on your morning cuppa, we’ve got you covered with this basic recipe for making karak tea at home.

karak tea recipeServed above in our beautiful hand painted Palestinian coffee cups – available in the Pink Jinn Souq!


  • 3-4 black tea bags (depending on whether you like your tea strong or not), or the equivalent of loose leaf tea, if you have a sieve
  • 1x 170ml can evaporated milk
  • 600 ml water
  • Seeds of 6 green cardamom pods, crushed with a mortar and pestel (not quite to a powder) or whole
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar


  1. Add the teabags/tea leaves, evaporated milk and water to a stove-top kettle or small pan over a medium-high heat
  2. Add the saffron threads, cardamom seeds and sugar.
  3. Heat until it’s almost­ boiling over – then remove from the heat. Continue to repeat this process for around 10 minutes. If you’re using a pan, you’ll need to stay close to it to avoid it boiling over.
  4. When the tea turns a rich, orange-brown caramel colour (see pictures!), remove the tea bags – unless you prefer it very strong. If using loose tea, remove it with a strainer or sieve.
  5. Taste, and stir in more sugar if needed.
  6. Serve immediately in tea glasses or mugs. It’s best served steaming hot, so if you don’t plan to drink it immediately, add to an insulated tea pot or serving jug.
karak tea Oman Qatar UAE recipeServed here in our Palestinian ceramic coffee cups, from the Pink Jinn Souq

Of course, everybody likes their tea slightly differently, so feel free to play around with the strength, sweetness and spices until you get it exactly as you like it. You can also interchange the spices if you want to mix things up, for example, switching out the cardamom for cinnamon, ginger or fresh vanilla bean – although if you’re after that authentic Khaleeji taste, we recommend sticking with cardamom and saffron.

We hope you enjoy making karak tea at home – let us know what you think of the recipe in the comments below!


If you enjoyed this, you might also like:

12 essential ingredients for cooking Middle Eastern food

5 traditional Middle Eastern recipes to try at home


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Cover image: Qatar Living

4 thoughts on “Khaleeji morning rituals: Sweet ‘Karak’ tea recipe

  1. Expat Panda says:

    I am truly fortunate to be able to pick up a chai from any place along my way to work but I guess I should start practicing how to make my own for when I leave the region and this seems like a great recipe to start with. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinkjinn says:

      Absolutely! I left Oman around this time last year and have loved being able to make this myself at home. It reminds me of honey and cheese bread for breakfast on my way to work…


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