Chai from Scratch

Sometimes making stuff from scratch isn’t always as practical as just going to the store and paying someone to give it to you quick and dirty (wait, that didn’t come out right…).

For most folks, I imagine homemade chai will fall into that category. It’s not like the salsa recipe I posted last week, which was easy, cost efficient and full of simple ingredients found in any grocery store. With chai, while most of the ingredients are pretty simple, there are things like whole star anise and cardamom pods that might scare some away.

But, stay with me here, because I promise it’s worth it.

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The perks roll in when you get to decide how much of this or how many of that goes into your beverage. Don’t like sweet chai? Use less sugar. Like it really spicy? Use more ginger. I do like my chai a little sweet, but I like the spices to be the star of the show. So, after reading some comments about the original recipe being a little heavy on the brown sugar, I decided to up the ante with the spices.

It may not be the cheapest, and you might have to peck around for the ingredients, but it is totally customizable and super fun, and like ThreeManyCooks pointed out, you’ll get the urge to be all Double, double toil and trouble while making it.

And now, for some gratuitous ingredient shots:

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You can probably guess most of the ingredients, but if they’re unfamiliar at all to you: the wooden stars are Star Anise, the green seed-like things are Cardamom pods (they sound like tiny treasures when they bounce around in your hands), the little bitty pile of black stuff are whole Cloves, which are smaller than you’d think, and the curly fat sticks are whole Cinnamon.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even buy your nutmeg whole and grate it with a teeny little zester, too.

Chai Concentrate

Makes ~4 cups     /     Adapted from thecatnipcat

4 ½ cups Filtered water
2 sticks Cinnamon
3 small slivers Ginger
14 whole Cardamom pods
2 whole Star Anise pods
20 whole Cloves
¼ tsp Black Pepper, ground
½ tsp Nutmeg, ground
1+ tsp Orange zest
2/3 cup Brown sugar
1 Tbsp Honey
1 Tbsp Vanilla
10 Black tea bags (or 10 tsp loose leaf black tea… I was out so I used the cheapo stuff)

  1. Bring water to a boil. Add spices and zest, give a quick stir, and remove from heat. Let steep for 15 minutes.
  2. Place back on heat long enough to bring back to a boil, then remove. Add tea bags and steep for 3-5 minutes. Important Note: If you want your tea to be stronger, use more tea and steep for the same period of time. Don’t steep longer than 3-5 minutes to try and impart a stronger tea – you will release more tannins and the tea will turn out bitter.
  3. Remove tea bags and strain the mixture into a glass pitcher. Add honey, vanilla, and sugar (to taste). Since I doubled almost all the spices, I used the full amount of sugar.
  4. Let cool to room temperature, then lid it and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

I like mine 1:1 with 2% milk – hot or cold, they’re both delicious. Get double the kick in the pants by adding a shot of espresso – or 2 tablespoons strong brewed coffee – for a “dirty chai.” And no one can deny the indulgence of a vanilla soy chai.

But you know what’s a really tasty treat that’s easy on the belly, too? Chai infused apple juice. Just bring some apple juice to a quiet simmer, add chai concentrate to taste and enjoy a special kind of apple cider.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I suddenly have the urge to watch Hocus Pocus.

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