Last year my daughter had the privilege of going to India for a 40 day mission trip. Their “team” stayed in a large house and had an Indian woman who took care of cooking for them and cleaning the house while they were there.
She made a huge pot of Chai tea for them each morning in a large pot on the stove and it was waiting for them when they came down from sleeping on the flat stone roof they went up to escape the heat of the uncooled downstairs rooms.
When she returned from India, she raved about the Chai tea and I wanted to try to recreate it. Fortunately, we have an Indian Spice market down the street from us and we were able to (cheaply!) find everything we needed.
Now we make this in a large pot on our stove. It is a creamy spiced tea made with milk and flavored with the heady scent of cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cloves and black peppercorns and sweetened up with a bit of honey or sugar. The recipes for Chai are many. Some include star anise, some ginger. It can be made a latte by adding some frothed milk on top.
Anyway you make it …it is delicious. Here’s how we made ours.
Add 2 cups of water to a good-size pot. Bring it to a boil. Add in 3 cinnamon sticks, 6 cloves, and 6 whole black peppercorns.
If anyone knows the secret to getting black off the bottom of a Le Creuset pot once you’ve burnt something, please let me know how?
These might be unfamiliar to you. Cardamom pods are either green (called Elettaria when they’re younger), or black or brown (called Amomum when they’re more aged). These obviously are green.
They actually belong to the ginger family and they’re pretty potent, like ginger is. If you can find them whole like this…take four of them and smash them with the flat side of a large knife.
Inside will be some tiny little brownish black seeds…that’s the flavor baby. Scoop them up, shells and all and toss them into your pot.
Take a knobby piece of fresh ginger and cut a thumb size piece off…Cut it into chunks. Don’t even bother with peeling it. Just make sure you give it a good scrub first for dirt.
Toss it into the hot water as well.
Let this all steep for 20 minutes. I’ll confess, I leave mine a lot longer – like an hour…I love everything strong..tea, coffee and the spices in Chai tea. It’s your preference though.
Pour it into a medium-size bowl through a strainer.
Then pour it back into the pot and return it to the stove and bring it to a simmer again.
This time remove it from the heat and add 4 black tea bags or 3 tablespoons of loose leaf black tea (I got this which Kayla says was what they used in India at our Spices of India market). Ceylon is good as well.
Bring it back to a simmer…then tie 4 black tea bags together for easy lifting.
Wrap them around a spoon handle to be able to remove them easily and set them into the hot liquid to steep again -but this time only for 5 minutes.
Remove the tea bags after 5 minutes and pour in 2 cups of milk. Slowly heat it up, but don’t get it to a boil this time…just steaming hot. Add in 3 tablespoons of sugar and taste. Add more if you desire greater sweetness. You can also add honey instead, as they do in parts of India.
Stir it up and then ladle it into cups. It should be pretty hot but not bubbling.
If you are lucky enough to have a frother, froth up some milk and pour it on top…that’s a Chai Tea Latte…but I like to just sip it out of a cup.
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