If you love chai, this is a must. Autumn in a cup, rich and creamy, sweet and spicy, utterly decadent. I've been a chai obsession-ist for years and years, but this new love affair takes the obsession to an entirely new level. Even my husband cannot resist the siren call, and he's a coffee guy, like, always. Offer him this in lieu? He cannot and will not refuse.
I've tried a thousand different tea bags and loose leaves and flavors, powders and syrups and even pre-mixed cartons. They all pale in comparison. This is like flying to India, ordering a cup from a buzzing roadside stall offering nothing else, and being warmly enveloped by the tantalizing aroma as a bearded Indian man ladles a steaming concoction of creamy spices into a cup and passes them to your eager hands.
It's that delicious. I'm not kidding.
I've done a little reading and apparently our western chai is more or less a joke to anyone who really understands the art of this long celebrated drink. The term 'watered-down' came up time and again. Authentic chai is nothing that can be purchased in tiny tea bag form. It's a rich combination of spices brewed with black tea and milk or cream, spiked heavily with sugar, and consumed blissfully as if you owe it to the chai to indulge with abandon...
And they all said amen.
With Fall officially upon us, you need to make this. You must. It will make the season for you. I'm still working on perfecting the ratios to my own preferences taste-wise, but it would be a huge disservice to wait until we return from Europe to share this with you. Below is my own personal concoction, but feel free to tweak according to your own preferences. Per usual I suggest using fresh spices and organic ingredients where possible for better overall taste and nutrition. (Old spices from the back of the pantry will not serve you well here. They loose flavor.)
Authentic chai begins with incredibly rich masala. I began with this recipe. Again, feel free to increase/decrease amounts to your liking.
1 c black pepper, finely ground*
3/4 c (heaping) ginger powder, finely ground
1/4 c (heaping) cinnamon powder, finely ground
1/4 c (heaping) cardamom, finely ground
2 tsp clove powder, finely ground
2 tsp nutmeg powder, finely ground
In addition I occasionally add a pinch of ground anise. Some recipes call for it, others don't, entirely up to you. If you can't find/don't have finely ground versions of the above, simply grinding whole spices in a clean coffee grinder works great! Mix them together in a mason jar and store in a cool dry space avoiding too much sunlight.
*I make one huge variation to the above. I keep the ground pepper stored entirely separate from the rest. I love the spice in chai but find the ginger already provides a nice bite, so I store the pepper in a different jar and add it pinch by pinch just as you would sweetener. It's particularly nice when serving guests, allowing them/you to turn the sweet and spicy levels up and down to their preferences.
Now for the fun part!
Authentic Indian Chai
1/2 c whole milk or cream
1/2 c water
2 tsp sugar (or honey, stevia, etc)
1 regular black tea bag (or 1 tsp loose leaves)
1/4 tsp masala (Same goes here for the spice index. Perhaps start with 1/8 tsp and move up from there depending on how rich you like it.)
Stir all the ingredients (except tea) together in a small saucepan over medium heat, being careful not to scald the milk. Allow it to come to a low boil, then immediately cover and reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat (still covered), add tea and allow to steep for another 5-10 minutes. Strain thru a fine mesh sieve or sifter, and indulge immediately. And by all means, please add a slash of vanilla if you so desire. Please and thank you.
Cheers to this glorious season, friends! Enjoy ;-)