As an aside, I've been spending time this weekend thinking about hope and how without it, it's hard for me to maintain joy (my word for the year). Friend Esme had a very timely blog posting about hope. It's a gift I'd like to share. Hope sometims comes in the littlest of things.
Chai is one of my favorite things about winter. I don't drink chai any other time of the year; it's a winter comfort beverage. It gives me something to anticipate with joy in a season that can be dark and dank, both externally and internally.
Cloves, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, star anise
I've been toasting my own chai spices. Aside from drinking the chai, the best part is smelling the toasted spices as I grind them. Here's my latest favorite recipe. This will make enough for ~4 batches, or a small jar to give as a gift. (The inspiration for this version came from Food for Friends, by Sally Pasley Vargas.)
Chai Spice Mix
- 3-4 cinnamon sticks, (about 2 inches)
- 2 Tablespoons cardamom pods
- 1 Tablespoon cloves (whole)
- 1/2 Tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1/8 to 1/4 tsp peppercorns (I use a lot more; I like the spicy bite)
- 1 whole star anise
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (or fresh, my preference)
Have you ever eaten a coriander seed, all by itself? Oh, wow! Try it simply dried, and then try it toasted. French guy behind me in line at the grocery store saw that I was buying coriander, and spent several minutes singing the praises of this spice.
Toast everything except ginger in a cast iron (or heavy-bottomed) dry skillet, about 3 minutes, until is starts to get fragrant. Place into mortar and pestle and crush coarsely (keep the pieces relatively large). Be sure to break the cinnamon sticks into halves or thirds. (If you don't have a mortar and pestle, try your cutting board and a rolling pin.) Add ginger (if using the powdered kind) and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container. (Vargas says this mix should keep for up to 6 months. I can't comment; mine is short-lived.)
Making Chai - 2 -3 servings
- In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup milk with 2 rounded teaspoons of the Chai Mix. If using fresh ginger, add several slices now.
- Warm the milk over medium-low heat until bubbles just begin to boil. (Do not boil!)
- Turn off heat and cover. Allow to steep for at least 10 minutes.
- In the mean time, make 2 cups of a strong black tea. I recommend Assam.
- After the milk has steeped, mix the tea with the milk, strain and serve.
I usually share this round with the DH, then put another cup of milk in with the spices (second steeping). I'll pour this off into a glass container and keep it in the fridge for later use. I'll simply rewarm and make a pot of tea. Also, I seldom mix the tea and the milk in the pan. Instead, I use a ratio of 2 parts tea with 1 part milk direct into the mug.
Note: You'll not see any sweetener in this recipe. Surprised? I prefer my chai without sweetener. When we were in India, each place we had chai served it with the sweetener on the side. Yay! (However, I understand that street vendors always have the sweetener included. This 'on the side' stuff is just for the fussy ones among us, at places like restaurants and hotels.) If you prefer your chai sweetened, do so in the mug. I recommend honey or agave. I think they bring out a caramel-like note that is missing in sugar.
Do you enjoy chai? Ever tried it with coriander? Have a favorite chai recipe? What's your secret ingredient? Any other tips or suggestions?