I love Chai. The sweet, the spice, the warm milk (in a chai latte)…it’s all the happy feelings of fall in a perfect little bundle of warm drink. Unfortunately, most cups of chai that you buy at a coffee shop, or pre-made packages of chai latte mix you could buy at the grocery store, are loaded with artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and just a bunch of things you don’t need in your cup of tea.
Here's an alternative: Let’s make our own chai!
A bit of background: Masala chai is a combination of many spices, black tea, milk and (if you so desire) sweetener. Though these spices and flavors vary across the globe, “masala” means “mixed spice” in Hindi, where this variation of tea originates. (Also, note, “chai” is a variation of the Chinese word for tea, “cha,” but was culturally preferred unadulterated. Most of what we consider simply “chai” today is in fact Indian spiced Masala chai). The result is beautiful and harmonious drink that will warm you from your fingers to your toes.
In terms of health, tea has been drunk since the 3rd century in China for medicinal purposes. WebMD also supports that black tea, dried fermented tea leaves, has been shown to protect the lungs and may also reduce the risk of stroke. Masala chai also packs in a lot of antioxidants and goodness from the spices you are using, many of which can be used on their own for their potent aroma-therapeutic and anti-inflammatory benefits.
There are some different types of chai we could make. A normal chai tea bag will make a basic spiced tea; in fact, you could divide these spices into six equal parts and store them in tea bags, if you wanted to. But chai concentrate is what you want for a chai latte (my favorite!). Think of it as the espresso of chai. Then the chai concentrate (mixed beforehand with the following recipe) can be brewed directly with the milk of your choice.
The spices for chai are best when prepared fresh, meaning, using the whole dried spices, then toasting them together to release maximum flavor, and then steeped whole. But we don’t always have time for that. This recipe will work as well with any ground spices you may have in your cupboard. The following recipe indicates the amount of whole spice needed,
This masala chai concentrate recipe will ensure your steaming cup of masala chai is just moments away from brightening up your fall afternoon.
Yield: About 1 quart chai concentrate
What You’ll Need:
*All spices and tea can be found in your local grocery store or natural-food store
• 6 cups water
• Sauce pan
• Strainer (or reusable (muslin) tea bag if you don’t want to fish for your spices afterwards)
• 1/4 cup raw sugar or honey, or natural sweetener of your choice
• 2- to 3-inch fresh ginger, sliced
• 5 cinnamon sticks
• 1 teaspoon peppercorns
• 2 vanilla beans
• 3 star anise
• 15 cloves
• 5 allspice (optional)• 2 teaspoons cardamom seeds
• 5 black tea bags, or about 10 grams (1/2 ounce) loose leaf plain black tea
• Milk of your choice (dairy, almond, soy, even sweetened condensed milk all work well)
1. In a medium pot, bring the water and sweetener to a boil and simmer until the sweetener is fully dissolved.
2. Add all of the spices, and continue to simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
3. Remove the mixture from the heat, add the tea bags, and let them steep for 10 minutes. Then strain out the spices and tea bags. Store your chai tea concentrate in the fridge, it will last for several weeks
4. To serve, mix the chai tea concentrate 1:1 with milk. Gently heat in a small saucepan until it reaches the desired temperature. Pour into your favorite mug, sprinkle with cinnamon and enjoy.
Recipe adapted from The Prairie Homestead
• Use a few tablespoons of organic sweetened condensed milk instead of milk and sugar
• Use green tea, or a mix of black and green tea
• Use coconut milk for a Thai version, spiced with anise, tamarind and cardamom. *Add a spoonful of sweetened condensed milk as well for best results
• Create your own “Masala,” or mix of spices. Many recipes include whole black, pink, or green peppercorns, almonds, saffron, fennel seeds, and/or rose hips, and some even have unsweetened cocoa powder for a chocolaty version. You could even try adding orange peels, apple slices, or apple juice for a fruity take.
Taylor Nutting is an editorial assistant at Mother Earth Living, who loves to find new ways (especially if it involves cooking!) to live a healthy and happy life.
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