It is official: I am sick of winter. I know that many, many others feel the same way as I do and many of you have had a much tougher time of if than we have here in the DC area. But, man! It has been a long one. One of the saving graces, though, has been my homemade chai. It has kept me warm and been the thing I look forward to on many a cold morning this winter.
I decided to start experimenting with making my homemade chai after my local Whole Foods started and then stopped carrying my favorite chai brand from Boulder, Colorado: Bhakti Chai. It was a brutal blow. I had been happily going along in my life, unaware of what I was missing. I thought of morning chais as a special treat that I got when I went out to Boulder, but then, suddenly, it was here and a possibility each and every day. As someone who doesn’t drink caffeine, the fact that there was a decaf drink option that was spicy and creamy was really exhilarating! And then it disappeared from the shelves and I was faced with the other brands, which I find way too sweet and not nearly spicy enough. It was devastating.
So I started experimenting with recipes and tweaked and modified and came up with a recipe that I think is almost as good as the Bhakti version. It has got a kick, it isn’t too sweet, and it is a whole lot cheaper than the boxed versions. I now make a double batch each week and store the concentrate in Ball jars so that I can have my fix every morning. I hope that this recipe can help some of you to get through these last few weeks of winter, I know I’ll be depending upon it.
- 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled (if desired) and sliced into thin rounds
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 15 whole cloves
- 8 cardamom pods (or 1 teaspoon whole cardamom seeds)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 6 cups water
- 6 bags of black tea (decaf or caf, depending on your preference. Darjeeling is great, but I have also enjoyed it with Irish Breakfast and even Earl Grey)
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- Milk for serving (preferably whole milk, though you could also use soy, rice, or almond milk)
- Combine the ginger, black peppercorns, cloves, and cardamom in a medium-sized saucepan. With the back of a wooden spoon, smush the spices so that they are lightly crushed or bruised (this will allow more flavor to come out of them). Add the cinnamon and water.
- Bring to a boil over a high heat and then turn down to medium-low. Simmer gently, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat and put the tea bags in for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags.
- Mix in the sugar.
- Strain the chai concentrate into a container to store in the refrigerator.
- When you are ready to serve, pour the chai concentrate into a mug and combine with milk, with a ratio of about ⅔ chai to ⅓ milk. Pour the mixture into a small saucepan and heat on medium-low, removing from heat right before it comes to a boil.