Berkshire Recipes, Chai, Jane Worthington-Roth
Chai is a much-loved, often-misunderstood, concoction that has become a mainstay in many coffee shops. Originating in India, “masala chai” translates from Hindustani to “mixed-spice tea” (masala = mixed; chai = tea) and is made by brewing black tea with aromatic spices. The traditional spice mixture (called “karha”) uses green cardamom pods, cinnamon, star anise, whole cloves, fresh ginger and black peppercorns.
Although many brands of tea manufacturers offer teabags with premixed “chai” flavors, there is nothing quite so delicious as making your own chai concentrate. For my chai concentrate recipe, I use whole spices rather than ground spices, which can cloud up the concentrate and leave a grainy residue and bitter flavor. I also use very little sugar in my mixture as I generally drink my tea with no added sweeteners and my guests can add additional sugar or honey if they prefer a sweeter brew.
The chai concentrate can be enjoyed mixed with hot water as a flavored tea, in chai lattes (mixed with steamed milk) or even in hot toddies, mixed with bourbon, spiced rum or brandy. It only takes a few minutes to prepare the chai concentrate and it can be stored in a covered jar in your refrigerator for several months. Chai doesn’t have to be relegated to only the winter months – it can be blended with some milk and vanilla ice cream for a delicious summertime treat!
4 cups water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 whole star anise
12 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 whole vanilla bean pod, sliced lengthwise
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed
½ teaspoon whole cloves
2 3”-long whole cinnamon sticks
1” by 3” piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into “coins”
6 high-quality black tea bags, such as English Breakfast Tea
In a medium saucepan, bring the water, sugar and spices to a boil. Lower the heat to low, stir well and let the mixture simmer for 15 minutes to extract all the flavor from the spices.
Place the teabags into the saucepan and let the mixture continue to simmer for 10 additional minutes. The masala chai will look like very strong tea.
Let the mixture cool. Remove the tea bags, squeezing each bag out carefully to extract all the flavor. Use a slotted spoon to remove the large spice pieces, then strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve (or cheesecloth) to remove the smaller pieces.
Store the masala chai concentrate in a quart mason jar or covered container in the fridge. Shake well before using to redistribute any spice particles that may have settled.
Sometimes I add a couple tea bags of Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spiced Tea when making the chai concentrate. It adds a spicy “red hot candy” nuance to the mix.