Also published on A Nice Cuppa
When was your first chai? Was it a concentrate Tazo concoction at Starbucks? Or, slow-brewed and lightly sweetened at a fine Indian restaurant? I remember falling in love with the spicy honey infused cup at a small Indian restaurant in a strip mall in Boulder, Colorado. The tea was a perfect match for all the rich flavors of the masala in the meal, and despite dining at 9 at night, I’d slurp down cupfuls finding myself wide awake and bursting with ideas at two in the morning. At only 20 years old, the late nights were rarely a problem. Many years later, I rediscovered chai at a local cafe and became quickly addicted once again. Oregon Chai, Tazo, Morning Glory, it really didn’t matter as long as it was balanced with perfect microfoam to mellow the harsh edge of sweetness. Grande Chai Tea Latte was my morning drink of choice for years. But in all that time, I never got around to making it at home, somehow convincing myself that it was too time consuming to get it right.
As I was flipping through one of my many cookbooks, this one Dishing with Style which combines the art of food styling with delicious recipes for entertaining, I stumbled upon a gorgeous photo of homemade Ginger Chai and sheepishly realized it is stunningly simple to make. If I can boil water and stir, I can make chai. So, despite having given up chai over a year ago (all that sugar!), I couldn’t resist and in 20 minutes I was curled up on the couch sipping. The good news is making it at home at least lets me control the amount and type of sugar. Once again, chai has a place in my life… maybe not as an everyday drink, but as the perfect rainy day cozying up with a good book drink.
(adapted from Dishing with Style by Rori Trovato)
Makes two cups
1 square inch of fresh or frozen ginger
1 cinnamon stick
1 or 2 star anise (with more for garnish if desired)
1/2 t orange zest
a dash of ground cardamom
2 T honey
1 T loose black tea
Peel the ginger, and cut the cube into 2 pieces. Place the ginger, cinnamon, anise, orange zest, cardamom and honey into a heavy bottomed pot. Fill the cup you will be using with water twice and add to the pot. Bring to a boil, stirring. Then, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the lid, and add the loose tea. Stirring, increase the heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add enough milk, a little at a time, to achieve the desired caramel color. Strain through a fine sieve and serve hot.
For a chai latte, the strained mixture can be steamed to 140F.