I’m sitting here beneath an open window on a brisk day thinking of spicy, piping hot chai.
There are many different recipes and methods for making chai, the easiest being buying a bottle of premade stuff. Premade chai tends to be a bit too sweet for me, so here we are.
I’ve taken quite a few cracks at this recipe. None of my concoctions would be classified as total failures, but they weren’t great. I was shooting for the stars, because just down the road from us is the wonderful Samovar tea lounge, and they make the best darn chai I’ve ever had. It’s rich (they use whole milk), and lightly sweet (they use palm sugar), and it’s nice and spicy without burning a hole in my tummy. So that’s a pretty high bar, but it was what I was going for and I think I got pretty close.
Chai (makes 2 servings)
1 Tbsp. (15ml) dried ginger
1 Tbsp. (15ml) green cardamom pods
1 teaspoon (5ml) whole black peppercorns
1 large cinnamon stick or two small, broken into rough pieces
10 whole cloves
2 cups (480ml) water
2 Tbsps. (30ml) good quality black tea
2 cups (480ml) milk–whole milk, soy, almond, etc.–your choice
1 Tbsp. (15ml) coconut palm sugar (or more)
For a truly decadent cup, I think good quality whole milk is pretty amazing.
I use coconut palm sugar because it has a lower glycemic load and it gives things a richer flavor. You could use regular sugar, agave, honey–whatever you like.
To begin, crush the spices so they’re broken but not pulverized. You can do this in a spice grinder or coffee mill. You could also sprinkle them over a cutting board and crush them with a rolling-pin or bottom of a clean pot.
Combine the spices and water in a small pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a low boil/high simmer and cook for 30 minutes. It will reduce to about 1/2 cup or so. Strain through cheesecloth or a coffee filter to make sure you remove all the gritty sediment and set aside. You can make a larger batch and keep the brew in the refrigerator for use on the fly.
Wash the pot, add the milk, strained spice brew, tea and sugar. Bring to a boil, cover and let steep for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust sweetness if necessary. Strain and serve hot.