Chai


Last weekend, Mark and I dropped by our neighborhood coffee shop to pick up a pound of beans for our friend James who was coming to stay with us for the weekend. I don’t do coffee or caffeine, though we like to have coffee around the house for our house guests who do. While I was chatting with the baristas about which beans to buy, I ordered a chai latte. It was GOOD. Spicy, sweet and a little creamy from the whole milk. As we strolled home, Mark and I shared the chai while I pondered making my own chai.

After a glorious week of spring temperatures, we woke up Saturday morning to the classic Midwestern “Wintery Mix” flying out of the skies at a sideways slant. Cold, wet and slushy, Turbo and I came in from our morning walk soaked to the bone…and more than a little rattled when the nasty pit bull in our building leapt into the elevator and attacked Turbo. Again. With nerves jangling and my head still stuffy from a 2-weeks-long and counting allergy attack, a hot cuppa seemed like just the thing to shake off the cold and soothe my nerves.

I looked through Tastespotting for some ideas on what spices I would need to make chai, and I had everything I needed! I veered from the traditional Indian chai a little bit by using Mexican cinnamon, canela, which has a much more floral aroma that I thought would be nice in the tea. I also used an herbal loose roobios tea in place of black tea to avoid the caffeine. The chai concentrate does take a few minutes to make – you might think this is a lot of work for a cup of tea, but it’s far better than any of the chai mixes you find in stores. And, it’s always good to know what’s going into the food you’re eating, so I’d advocate for giving this a go before buying the mixed concentrate if you’re a chai fan.

Once you’ve got the concentrate made, fill a mug halfway with your favorite milk (almond is my go-to choice), then top it off with the chai concentrate and heat in the microwave. Wrap your hands around the warm mug and enjoy a spicy, aromatic treat, while wishing the March snows away.

What’s your favorite cuppa tea? Share your favorite leaves in the comments…

Chai
Makes 1 quart of chai concentrate, good for about 6-8 mugs of tea.
Adapted from
She’s In the Kitchen and OB Cookie

2 whole star anise
8 green cardamom pods, whole
1 tsp whole cloves
8 allspice berries
12 black peppercorns
2 T chopped fresh ginger
1 bay leaf
1 5″ stick of canela (Mexican cinnamon), or 2 sticks regular cinnamon
4 T brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 cups cold water
4 T loose roobios tea (or 8 tea bags)
almond milk

  1. Pour 4 cups cold water into a pot. Crumble the canela and bay leaf into the pot and add the chopped ginger. Pour all the dried spices into a mortar and pestle and bash around a bit to break the spices into a very coarse grind. Dump the spices into the pot. Heat the covered spices and water over high heat and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to low and let the spices steep for 10 minutes, then add the loose tea. Turn the burner off and leave the pot on the burner to steep for another 7 minutes. Add the vanilla and brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Strain the chai concentrate into a 1 quart glass jar.
  2. To serve the chai, pour a half cup of almond milk into a mug, then fill to the top with the chai concentrate, and heat the mixture in the microwave. If you like your chai a bit sweeter, stir in a bit of honey. Store the leftover chai concentrate in the fridge for up to a week.

Nutritional info: 40cal for 6oz of almond milk + 30cal for brown sugar.

23 thoughts on “Chai

  1. Sound delicious! I will have to try it myself. My favorite tea is green tea with jasmine. I like a warm drink in the evening so green tea does the trick. I was surprised when I moved to England how different the tea is. American tea takes a few minutes to brew and is brownish black and transparent. British tea seems to brew almost instantly and its a chestnut color with deep red undertones and an almost syrupy consistency. No wonder Brits drink so much tea, its much better and more flavorable than American stuff.

  2. I would have to say my favorite “hot” beverage is chai and I do make it at home when I serve curry for dinner but I often drink two cups at our favorite Pakistani restaurant.
    And, we have gone there so often that we are treated like family. So much, that when I am even in the area shopping or just at the library next door, I will pop in and ask for a chai which they never charge me for.
    A very sweet deal.
    And when I say sweet I mean sweet as it is the only drink I will add some sugar to.

  3. And I might add, I think it is the perfect comfort drink after you get some cold weather, in your case the bout of snow you guys just got.
    Spring is just around the corner, really.

    • Celeste – glad you’re a chai lover too! We’re still working on getting to know the owner of our favorite Pakistani cafe to get those kind of perks! And yeah, I’m really hoping that spring is around the corner! 😛

  4. Would you believe I’ve never ordered a chai before? I have the slightest as to what it even tastes like. After a chilly morning out at the shuffle, this is exactly what I would need to warm me up. In addition to delivering those rhubarb cocktails, do you also deliver chai?

    And how in the world can you get the pitbull to stop tormenting Turbo?

    • I’ll bring you some chai this week, Em! You’ll love it. I’m sure you need a whole thermos of chai to warm you up after this weekend – Brrrrr!

      I don’t know what to do about the pit bull. It’s a really frustrating situation. I do believe that he’s a good dog in his own house, but Turbo isn’t the only dog he attacks in the building. I’m writing more letters to the condo board and the dog’s owners, but probably won’t do any more good than the last three letters.

  5. Some of the spices you’ve used here sound really interesting. I’ve never seen a recipe for Chai like yours so this was a really fun read for me.

    I like my chai proper Desi style. Tea leaves and spices are stepped in boiling water, then milk and sugar is added. The while mixture is boiled on low heat till it all thickens. Best had with some tea rusk or Marie biscuits.

    There’s this ‘Irani’ restaurant next to my home in Mumbai that serves the BEST chai I’ve ever had. They boil the tea literally for an hour and sweeten it with condensed milk. Just divine.

    Lately I’ve also taken onto simple Earl Grey tea with Honey. Soothes my allergic throat like nothing else.

  6. Some of the spices you’ve used here sound really interesting. I’ve never seen a recipe for Chai like yours so this was a really fun read for me.

    I like my chai proper Desi style. Tea leaves and spices are steeped in boiling water, then milk and sugar is added. The while mixture is boiled on low heat till it all thickens. Best had with some tea rusk or Marie biscuits.

    There’s this ‘Irani’ restaurant next to my home in Mumbai that serves the BEST chai I’ve ever had. They boil the tea literally for an hour and sweeten it with condensed milk. Just divine.

    Lately I’ve also taken onto simple Earl Grey tea with Honey. Soothes my allergic throat like nothing else.

    • Oh, I was SO hoping you’d chime in, Sabera! I was wondering how close this was to what you grew up with, and I’m not surprised that it’s pretty far off! And I figured this was a little anemic and thin, compared to the authentic stuff.

      But, it’s still tasty. I’m going to try the sweetened condensed milk next time, though – that sounds like a great addition, and would add a little richness and thicken it just a tad.

      • I love your version! Personally I prefer my chai with a kick to it so all the extra spices you’ve added is something I love.

        In traditional India, a girl’s marriage worthiness is gauged by how well she makes chai (I know. Silly no?). I learned how to make it when I was 13 and my dad fell in love with my version since then🙂 If not improving my marriage worthiness, chai is the one thing on which my dad settled all his complaints with me😉 This one time I settled our ongoing fight on the time I’d come home from partying with friends, over a nice cup of chai I made for him for breakfast. LOL!

      • Awww, Sabera, I love that story about your dad! And I wish everyone getting married knew how to do one thing in the kitchen REALLY well before taking the vows. Eating well is important, right?!

        And settling a disagreement or disappointment over a cup of good tea seems like a fine way to live. If only we could all settle our disagreements this way. I’d love to sit down at work with some good chai and hash out a particularly complex project!

        Now, I’d love to get a post on OLTE on how you make chai!

  7. Man jenn – what a great idea!!! I haven’t had homemade chai since my good friend dumped her Indian boyfriend!!! He made killer chai blends. I have a recipe for chai hot chocolate too that I’ve been meaning to try and haven’t gotten around to it. I’ll add it to the list of stuff to make when back in town!!

  8. Well, I was going to tell you how us home chai folks do it, but you’ve already got it. Growing up, we always had “tea masala” ready to go, and I could make it from memory to this day. It may be the very first thing I ever learned to make from scratch.

    for 2 cups worth (cause, who ever has just 1 cup?)

    1 C water (“cup” being the cup you will drink out of)
    2 teabags (we always just used lipton…but i’m sure there is much better tea to use)
    1 C milk
    1 tsp sugar (more or less to taste)
    spice to taste (apx 1 tsp)

    In small saucepan, Boil the water and teabag together. Add spice and sugar as water/tea is heating up. when boiling, add milk, reduce heat and simmer until small skin forms on the surface and color resembles me! hehe.

    Strain into cup and enjoy taste of home.

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