nosh friday: homemade chai tea concentrate
I recall the first time I tasted chai tea. I was a senior in high school and a friend and I were reviewing a new local coffee house as part of a series for our school newspaper. Our eyeballs were practically vibrating from a massive amount of caffeine, having visited two other coffee shops that afternoon, and when we stepped into the last one, I wanted to try something different that wouldn’t make me shake too much more. I thought a chai tea latte sounded exotic, so I ordered one. After one sip, I turned to my friend and, with wide eyes, whispered “It tastes just like Christmas!”
Since then, chai and I have become close, hot or cold. As we’ve been pounded with snow this week (two and a half snow days! yeesh!), it seemed the perfect time for the spicy warm qualities of a chai latte. However, I haven’t found a boxed chai concentrate I’m too fond of yet; I find paying $4 or $5 for a box of chai that I could easily polish off in a week to be outlandish. And my frugal self knows there is a homemade route for nearly everything. When I found this recipe for homemade chai concentrate on the Tasty Kitchen blog, the pitter-pat of my heart told me all I needed to know.
Not everyone likes to take the extra time and care to make things like this themselves. However, if you have access to the spices (I found most at World Market, where you can get a package of something like star anise or cloves for less than a dollar) and the mind to try it out, I think it’s well worth it. It’s MUCH cheaper to DIY something like this yourself and you can control how sweet you want it. For me, I want to taste and pick apart the complex notes of all the warm spices, not wonder if what I’m drinking is simply lightly spiced corn syrup in a cunning boxed disguise.
If you’re an intrepid (and rather thrifty) DIY’er like me, give this a go. It took me about five minutes to put together and after 20 minutes of steeping, I strained it into a bowl, poured it into an old Nalgene bottle and stuck it in my fridge, ready to mix with soymilk and sip, sip, sip.
Homemade Chai Tea Concentrate
From Tasty Kitchen
4 1/2 c. water
1 large cinnamon stick
1 large piece fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
7 whole cardamom pods
2 whole star anise
10 whole cloves
1/4 t. freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 t. freshly-ground nutmeg
Zest of 1/2 large orange
10 black tea bags (I used Orange Pekoe)
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 T. honey
1 T. vanilla extract
In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. While the water heats up, measure out all your spices, zest and tea. Make sure to remove the tags from the tea bags. (You could also use 10 teaspoons of looseleaf black tea if you don’t buy it in bags.) Once the water is boiling, add all your spices, zest and tea. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let it steep for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea. (I love it strong like I like my…uh, never mind.)
Once the mixture is done steeping, strain it into a large glass measuring cup or bowl. Add the brown sugar, honey and vanilla and whisk until it is fully dissolved. Pour into a jar or other container (I found a large Nalgene works great) and keep in the fridge. To drink, combine one part chai with one part milk and heat or serve over ice.
Makes approximately 24 oz concentrate