Thursday, April 11, 2013

Down Home Chai Tea

This is a versatile recipe – the ingredients listed in bold are required for very basic chai. Feel free to omit or increase the volume of the non-bolded ingredients to your liking. I really enjoy the flavor of this strong tea, but know that you can always mix all the whole spices, steep them in water, strain and then use the concentrate to flavor other things, such as homemade ice cream or hard sugar candies, frostings, or even homemade chocolate candies. Yum!

7 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, or 1/4 whole nutmeg seed pod
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, crushed, or 2 teaspoons dried crushed lemongrass
3 star anise pods
1 tablespoon licorice root
8 cardamom pods
12 whole cloves
2-1/2 inch piece fresh ginger root cut into thin wheels, or 1-1/2 tablespoons dried ginger root, or 1 tablespoon powdered ginger root
1 teaspoon black or mixed peppercorns
1-1/2 tablespoons fennel seed, or anise seed
9 cups of cold water
2 whole vanilla beans
3 tablespoons black tea leaves
1/3 cup raw honey, or 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice, or dark brown sugar
Milk of your choosing, or water
  1. In a bowl, combine broken cinnamon sticks, nutmeg (powdered or 1/4 of a broken nutmeg pod), lemongrass (crush in hand), star anise pods, licorice root, cardamom pods, cloves, ginger root, peppercorns and fennel seeds; stir to combine.
  2. Place a skillet over medium-low heat; allow to heat then add combined spices. Heat spices until highly fragrant, about 2 minutes, stirring the whole time (DO NOT BURN). Pour heated spices into a cooking pot or large tea pot that is filled with 9 cups water.
  3. Lay vanilla beans on a cutting board; slice the long way down the middle of each bean; using edge of knife scrape insides out and add to the water; add the scraped bean pods too.
  4. Add black tea leaves to pot.
  5. Place pot over medium heat and heat only until steam starts to rise off water. DO NOT BOIL.
  6. Place lid on pot and turn off heat; steep for 1 hour, more if you like a stronger tea and/or chai flavor.  
  7. Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. Allow to drain then gather corners of cloth and twist them together to make a pouch with the spices inside; twist cloth to extract as much liquid as possible into the bowl. Discard spices, shake out cloth over sink and allow to dry - save to reuse later.
  8. Now you have about 8 cups of chai tea concentrate. You can freeze in cubes as is, or add the desired amount of sugar or honey and stir to dissolve then refrigerate mixture for upto 10 days (shake before using).
  9. To make 1 cup chai tea: combine 1/2 cup chai tea concentrate with sweetener of choice (if not already added) with 1/2 cup heated milk of choice or 1/2 cup heated water; stir to combine; serve immediately.

Servings: 8 cups concentrate; 16 cups chai tea prepared with water or milk.
Prep time: 1 hour+ for concentrate, 5 minutes to make tea from concentrate
Temp: Do not boil.

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