Most chai tea lattes are chocked full of overly sweet powders and flavorings laden with corn syrup. Not this one! We promise this aromatic blend of black tea and its array of spices will soothe and satisfy you to the core. We’ve been honing this recipe for years – ever since Mary got us hooked on the chai at Open Secret, a New Age-y book nook in San Rafael. I can smell the incense now! We hounded the owners relentlessly for their coveted recipe to no avail, so here is our best shot at it. (Ours still may not be quite as good, but it sure runs a close second.) Our kids love to dunk biscotti in the chai, Jack pours it into his coffee on Saturdays to liven it up and sometimes we even froth the chai with a little cacao powder. Though the simmering takes a while, the prep time is just 15 minutes; so go cozy up in the kitchen and brew a little spice in your life!
- 2 tablespoons cardamom pods
- 1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 4 whole allspice
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 7 cups filtered water
- 1 cup ginger, roughly sliced (no need to peel)
- 3 scant tablespoons loose black tea (follow package instructions), or 4 tea bags (We usually use Darjeeling or Assam)
- 1 cup milk (plus a nip of cream, optional)
- 1/4 cup raw honey, turbinado or brown sugar, plus more to taste
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- pinch salt
Combine the first 5 aromatic ingredients in a medium sized pot over medium high heat, moving the pan constantly for about 2 1/2-3 minutes, or until they become aromatic. Be very careful not to burn the spices. Remove from heat and pour the spice mixture on a large piece of parchment paper or wax paper. Fold the spices into a little package and wack them with a rolling pin or meat mallet, or even a small fry pan. The cardamom pods should burst and all the rest of the spices should be crushed. Return the spice mixture back to the pot, add the water and the ginger. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. The liquid will reduce to about 4 cups. Turn off the heat, add the tea (loose or bags). Steep for about 3-5 minutes. (You can follow the directions on the back of the package for specifics if you are using a specialty tea.) Strain the mixture and place the strained spiced tea back in the pot. Add the milk, a nip of cream if you wish and whisk in the raw honey (or sweetener of choice), the vanilla and a pinch of salt. Serve immediately for a little instant gratification. Or, cool, and refrigerate for 5-6 days assuming that milk is fresh. This tea is best made 1 day in advance.
Yield: about 5 cups
Note: We rip through this chai quickly in our household, but if the milk is added “to order”, the base recipe (including everything except the milk and sweetener) can be stored indefinitely in the refrig. Add 1/4 cup milk and 1 tablespoon honey to 1 cup of the pre-brewed spiced tea.