Friday, November 2, 2012

chai time

Chai (or cha) means tea in a whole bunch of different asian languages. Indian-style tea, which most people mean when they say 'chai tea,' is also called Masala Chai, literally 'mixed-spice tea' (according to wikipedia). You probably already knew, but every time people say chai tea, they're saying tea-tea. Kinda funny. 

Don't get me started on Starbucks or Second Cup's 'chai tea lattes.' That sickly-sweet syrupy flavour? It comes from a carton, and it ain't got nothing on this chai. Make a big batch, and store it in the fridge. To serve, you just heat it up with your choice of milk - cow, soy, almond, rice - whatever! If you have a milk frother, you can go crazy and make your own latte at home. Also, adapt the spices to your own liking - don't like liquorice flavour? Leave out the star anise. Love ginger? Add more. 

This is perfect for curling up with a wool blanket and a novel. A cup of chai, some music by Ravi Shankar and a novel set in India are the closest I'm getting to the Taj Mahal (until my next travel adventure, hopefully). May I suggest an epic novel by Vikram Seth or Rohinton Mistry? My two favourites are A Suitable Boy and A Fine Balance. (I think I've wanted to go to India for a long time - here's a drawing from one of my high school sketch books.)

Masala Chai Concentrate
Adapted from these three recipes. Makes 4 cups of concentrate, which equals 8 cups chai. 

4 cups water
6 whole cardamom pods, crushed
6 cloves
6 black peppercorns
1 piece star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 3-inch piece of ginger, sliced
zest of 1 orange
1 vanilla bean, split in half
6 black tea bags
1/4 to 1/2 cup of honey (depending on your taste)

Bring water and spices (everything except the tea and honey) to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and add the tea and honey. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let steep 5-10 minutes. Strain, and store in the fridge. To make, combine 1 part chai concentrate with one part milk and heat.

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