I’m back! Did you miss me? I was all sickly and working a bunch all last week, and therefore far too lazy to even clean my house, let alone post blogs. But no worries, I have a treat.
Who doesn’t love chai tea? Hint: it is not me who does not love chai tea. I had never enjoyed this delicacy until I had a meal card in college with a chai tea machine in the food court. And it was love.
Over the summer this supply dried up, so I went to Campus Convenience (aka Campco) and inquired as to whether one might find chai tea somewhere in the store. The new owner, who was incidentally Indian, directed me to a shelf with some black tea on it. “No no, like . . . chai . . . it’s got milk and honey in it?”
“But, this is chai”
“Um, well, what I’m looking for comes in a carton?”
“Chai is an Indian word that means ‘tea.'”
And thus ended one of many cultural lessons that naturally befall a white middle-class suburban girl from New Hampshire sooner or later.
And look! Just five years later, here I am, so culturally learned that I not only eat Pho on a regular basis, but am making my own chai tea. There are dozens of recipes out there, so I kind of mashed them all up to create an optimal mix of things. Fortunately, my experiments in Pho leave me with pretty much all the ingredients on hand!
For one, cardamom pods.
Did you know the best way to get cardamom flavouring is to smash open the pods? It’s true! I read it on the Internet. I guess outside of the pods, the seeds don’t retain their flavour very well.
I assembled the other spices, shying not away from traditionally savoury spices such as fennel and black peppercorns.
Float your tea bags atop some milk. Many folks like the creaminess of whole milk. I used 1% because the cooking of it thickens it quite a bit, and more importantly, I’m totally on a diet.
Then you stir continuously while it comes to a boil. Then you simmer. And then you simmer some more. In fact, the longer you simmer, the spicier it becomes. Perhaps less cardamom is better if you’re planning on spicing it to the max.
Strain. I doubly strained this because cheesecloth is a pain in the ass sometimes and also, this strainer is not nearly stringent enough to get those itty bitty tea leaves that burst out of those cheap tea bags.
After some chilling, I iced that business and enjoyed it with some fine biscuits I found at the Indian store while in search of bulk black peppercorns.
And that’s that! I made a half gallon of tea for sharing, but the recipe makes a quart.
2 tsp fresh ginger, smashed via mortar and pestle or otherwise minced
4 bags of black tea
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp fennel seeds
4 whole cloves
8 black peppercorns
4 cardamom seeds
1/4 cup honey
1 quart of milk (your choice of fat content–that’s 4 cups)
Pour milk, spices and honey into a saucepan, float the tea bags on top, and let come to a boil while stirring continuously. Reduce to a simmer (continue to stir) and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Simmer for longer for a stronger flavour. Turn off heat, let sit a few minutes. The milk will get a skin on top of it; skim and discard. Strain through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth if you have it. Serve hot, or chill and serve with ice. And delicious sunshine biscuits