Oh, my love affair with chai. I am on and off addicted to it. Hmm. No. Let’s be honest. I am always addicted to it. I just sometimes go through indulgent spells and sometimes decide to be responsible and not gulp down lots of sugar in the morning or try to challenge my body’s caffeine capacity. I am, however, most of the time indulgent and consider it my happy thing of the day. I actually don’t drink coffee. You wouldn’t believe it looking at my countertop, with an espresso machine and unground beans and some other machine that makes a lot of noise and some stick looking thing with a bulbous cup on the end of it. No, I’m actually not coffee literate at all and just happen to be married to the trendy coffee/beer/wine guy. He’s actually the one who introduced me to my beloved iced chai latte when we were dating. That’s what the boyfriend’s gotta do when he wants to go on a coffee date and his gal doesn’t like coffee. My first sip of the cool, spicy drink turned into an instant, “…uhh. *cough* Yeah, uh…can we make this a venti?”
Chai, traditionally from India, is a word for tea and is steeped with various spices, giving it a very aromatic and in-depth flavor profile. There isn’t a right or wrong way to create chai, really. It’s mostly based on several core spices and can be changed and modified based on taste. The major players are cardamom (a spice actually in the ginger family), cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
chai latte concentrate
prep time: 5 minutes cook time: 20 minutes yield: about 4 cups
4 cups water
10 black tea bags
20 whole peppercorns, lightly crushed
10 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
5 whole cloves
1 inch piece fresh ginger, lightly crushed
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup unrefined brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the tea bags, peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar, honey, orange zest, lemon juice, and vanilla extract and let steep another 10 minutes.
Pour the tea through a fine mesh strainer (to remove the whole spices) into a one quart container. I used a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Allow the tea to cool before sealing it completely. Store chilled.
To enjoy a chai latte, mix equal parts chai concentrate and milk. Heat the mixture on the stovetop to drink hot or, for my favorite, pour over ice.
As stated in the recipe, a chai latte can be enjoyed hot or cold. As much as I love hot chocolate and cider and, not surprisingly, hot chai, hot drinks tend to give me headaches. So, I try to stick to the chilly versions of things. The hot drink headache, however, doesn’t compare much to the I’ve-decided-to-give-up-caffeine headache. Oy. But enough about headaches. It’s giving me a headache just writing about headaches. And writing about headaches makes me want a…chai. Erg. Addiction.