Tuesday, November 2, 2010

World's Best Chai Concentrate

I apparently don't have much of a backbone when it comes to peer pressure! Since so many sweet friends have asked for the recipe, I'm sharing what is certainly the best thing I've made all month. Or even last month!

I've tried lots of chai trying to replicate the delicious drink served at my favorite Indian restaurant, but nothing has ever gotten it quite right. I've tried chai spice tea bags (some of which are pretty good, most are disappointing), chai spice powders (mostly blech), and most recently, boxed chai. The boxed stuff is, in my humble opinion, the best at duplicating the chai we all dream of. However, at more than $3 a box for 8 servings of chai (which we can drink in a week, easy!), I was looking for a more economical option.

The upfront cost of all the spices was pretty steep, but I'll come out ahead in the long run. Just for fun, I'm going to keep track of how many batches this makes so that I can let you know just how much I saved over buying the boxed mix. I plan to make this every week until warmer weather comes our way!

Chai Concentrate
(makes 1 quart concentrate, enough for 2-3 quarts chai)

1 qt. cold water
1 family size black teabag (or 4 individual black teabags, or 4 rounded tsp loose tea--I used Irish breakfast and it was super)
2 cinnamon sticks (or 1/2 tsp. chopped cinn. sticks)
12 cardamom pods, crushed (or 1/2 tsp. cardamom seed)
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled (or 1/2 tsp. tea-cut dried ginger)
1/4 tsp. whole cloves (about 4)
6 whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 c. sugar

Put water, teabag, cinnamon sticks and ginger in saucepan. Lightly crush the cardamom pods. Don't grind to oblivion, just enough to release the seeds! You can do this in a mortar and pestle, or with a rolling pin. Combine cardamom and cloves in teaball, put in pan (Note: If you don't have a teaball, you can put everything in loose and just strain it at the end). Bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer 5 minutes. Remove teabag, cinnamon, ginger and spices. Stir in vanilla and sugar.

To store for future use, pour mixture into container and refrigerate. To serve immediately, mix chai with milk in proportion of 1/3-2/3 or 1/2-1/2 . Adjust to taste. Delicious warm or cold.

For Henderson locals wondering where to find all these fabulous spices, here's where I got my stuff:

Cardamom pods: Ada's sells green ones for a reasonable price. They're not at Wal-Mart or the South Kroger, so don't bother looking. (Wal-Mart has a place on the shelf for cardamom, but apparently the clerks think cumin is the same thing, since the whole shelf is filled with cumin. They are so wrong.) Ada's carries the whole pods and the seeds. I recommend the whole, because they'll stay fresh longer. Fresher means yummier tea!

Cinnamon sticks: Once again, Ada's saves the day! You can get a HUGE bundle of cinnamon sticks for less than $1.50. I mistakenly bought some cinnamon sticks at Wal-Mart (McCormick brand) and got about a quarter of the amount for $4.50. I will be returning them to Wal-Mart, unopened!

Ginger: Several groceries around carry "fresh" ginger, however, I have always been disappointed in the freshness when I've bought it in the past. It was almost always dry, indicating that it had been sitting in that bin for too long. Maybe you'll have better luck. Or, you can do what I did and just get some crystallized ginger. Wal-Mart carries it, and I have also found it in gift boxes at T.J. Maxx and similar stores. Bonus: You'll have it on hand when the urge to make chai strikes you.

1 comment:

  1. Mmmmm. This looks good, Leah. I'm not much of a make my own drink girl but I aspire to be.