Saturday, January 7, 2012

My Chai

You need to know this: I love hot tea. I especially like Chai tea. It all started at a restaurant called P.F. Chang's when my dad ordered a small pot of tea to go with our meal. At that point, I didn't really care for tea, but after that I was hooked. I found a box of India Spice Chai by Celestial Seasonings and ran out in a matter of weeks. When I went to get more, it was gone. None of the stores in my town had any. So I got regular Chai, which was great too. Until about 20 minutes ago, I used Stash to sate my Chai addiction. Now I have my own blend.

Wait... What is Chai? Literally, Chai is Tea. Chai Tea is redundant, meaning "tea tea." Most of us Westerners associate Chai with Masala Chai. Masala Chai is very popular in India. It uses a tea base, a sweetener, milk, and a mixture of "warm" spices called karha. Karha itself has a couple of different components: ground ginger and green cardamom pods, with some other spices mixed in.

So... My Chai! I'll break it down by the 4 parts of Chai.
-Typically, a strong black tea is used as the tea base. I am using Lipton loose-leaf tea since it's what I have on hand. It is a black tea, so it works. I'm not a tea-snob, so I don't really care. It's good to me!
-As a sweetener, I use honey. In addition to being better for you than plain sugar, honey has some health benefits and a wonderfully sweet, earthy taste. To me, Chai should taste earthy and warm. If you don't want to use honey, don't. Use plain white sugar, or brown sugar, or some sort of sweet nectar. Whatever makes you happy.
-Milk. If I could talk my husband into buying whole milk, that's what I'd use. As it is, he wants 2%, so I'm using 2%. Whole milk makes it more rich. You could use condensed milk and it would double as the sweetener. Eew.
-Karha. Say the word. Karha. The sound of it is wonderful. Now imagine the sweet earthynes of ginger and allspice and cloves mixed together with the sharp smell of pepper and fennel. Be right back. I have to go brew another cup.

I like my tea on the spicy-sweet side, and you can never go wrong with cloves and allspice. Those are my favorite spices. So... What is my Karha? I broke tradition and didn't use cardamom pods (I don't know where to get them...). Here's how I did it:

1 Tablespoon fennel
1 teaspoon whole allspice, lightly crushed
12 whole cloves, lightly crushed
1 cinnamon stick, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves, crumbled
2 Tablespoons loose leaf black tea

Mix everything together and store it in an airtight container. To brew, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of the Chai. Steep for 5-ish minutes. Add the honey and top of the teacup with some milk. Sit back and enjoy!

I'm thinking that some dried orange zest would be great in this...

Anyway, I'm off for the night to read some more Song of Ice and Fire. Things are getting good!