A blog of hopeful, inspired living: cooking & baking & growing & harvesting & preserving & gleaning & eating & sharing food... while bringing positive change to my kitchen and our food system.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Spicy Chai Tea

Clockwise from top: whole black pepper, star anise, cloves, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, whole cinnamon, ground cinnamon, ginger, cardamom pods
Recently I visited with a friend in her sweet garden apartment for tea.  I had not seen her in a long time -- months? a year? I had just learned that she's expecting a baby in February -- a little boy. When I walked in I was enveloped by a warm, comforting smell and the loving energy of her home. I felt at ease, like we had seen each other just yesterday, like all was well in the world. It only got better as we relaxed into cushions to catch up over a cup of hot tea.

She served this chai (or something similar). It was mid-day and I enjoyed it with black tea, a nice caffeine pick-me up in addition to the energy-boosting kick from the spices. She enjoyed hers with rooibos red tea. The nice thing about this recipe is that a tea bag is added to each individual cup at the end, rather than boiled together with all the chai spices. The chai spices infuse as they boil in water to make a spicy, deeply fragrant and flavorful base that is poured over the tea bag of your choice.

Chai with a green tea bag, milk and honey
Today I gave it a try at home. It worked like a charm: our apartment filled with the comforting smell of the holidays, of baking, of celebrating and relaxing with loved ones. I highly recommend giving this a go -- the simple preparations are largely rewarding. And the chai base can be used with your tea of the moment: tonight I used green matcha tea. Black teas or roobois are also great. Add a little milk and honey, sit back and forget your woes. It's the perfect warming treat for the chilly weather, and the perfect tea to share with a friend.

Another reason to love this recipe is that it's flexible: ingredients can be eliminated, increased, decreased or substituted based on your taste and/or what's in your spice collection. How do you like it?

Chai Tea
makes 4 - 6 cups of tea
1 Tablespoon whole black pepper
2 star anise pods
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 or 2 sticks whole cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 2-inch knob of ginger, cut into 4 - 6 pieces
6 - 8 cardamom pods
8 cups water

1. Heat the water with all the spices over medium-high heat until water comes to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer 30 minutes to an hour or more -- the longer the more flavorful.
2.  Place the tea bags of your choice into mugs. Strain the chai tea mixture into each mug. Steep for the appropriate amount of time (about 5 minutes for rooibos; 1- 3 minutes for green; 3 - 5 minutes for black).
3. If you want, add a splash of milk and some honey or other sweetener to taste.

Keep warm and enjoy in good company!

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