Monday, June 13, 2011

Chai Tea Concentrate

Cardamom. It's supposed to be a key ingredient in chai. But the first time I decided I had to make a chai latte (I mean, absolutely had to, right then and there), it just so happened that we were snowed in to our little apartment. (Well, "snowed in" by a Floridian's standards, who, 5 years later, still just stands in front of her car and stares when she walks out in the morning and there's a little ice on the windshield. I mean, what I am supposed to do with that? Ice scraper you say? What's that?) Either way, the moral of the story is this - we were snowed in, I had no cardamom lying around, and I wasn't about to venture out to try to find some.

So, not to be dissuaded by the facts, I forged ahead and made it without cardamom, resolutely throwing lots and lots of every other spice I could find into the pot to try to make up for this one missing ingredient. And guess what?It was still tasty and delicious without it! Turns out it's really difficult to ruin chai concentrate. The spices have a way of meshing and melding and just generally swirling all together into a lovely, fragrant concoction that absolutely refuses to be ruined, even by neglecting to add a key ingredient.

Now, since then, I have procured some cardamom, which I used in the batch of chai I made tonight, but at least one non-typical chai spice has stuck around from that first recipe - anise. I know most chai recipes you'll find don't call for it, but I just kind of chucked some in the pot that night to see what would happen, and I happen to think it adds a little extra zing. When it comes to chai, the spicier and more complex and layered, the better, I say. So, the anise is here to stay. If you don't have any of the below spices, that's ok. No cardamom, throw in an extra couple of cloves to make up for it. No ginger, throw in some extra cinnamon instead. Trust me. It'll be ok.

Ingredients, for concentrate:
3 cups water
6 cardamom pods
6 cloves
3 anise stars
1 inch of ginger root (you can peel it, but I don't bother)
2 cinnamon sticks (or, 2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon)
1 Tbsp. ground nutmeg
4 Earl Grey tea bags
(or any other black tea, even green tea for that matter. I just happen to love the subtle citrusy touch that Earl Grey brings to the table, and I think you might too.)

for latte:
nutmeg & cinnamon for topping

(servings: 4-ish)

This is going to be complicated, so get ready. Are you ready? Dump all the ingredients into a medium sized pot. Put on stove. Let simmer.

Yep. That's pretty much it.

Well, ok, a few more details may be in order. Let the mixture come to a boil. Let boil for 5 minutes. Turn down to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for 15-30 more minutes, depending on how long you're willing to wait. The longer you let it simmer, the stronger and more melded the spices will be, but hey... sometimes you just can't wait, and that's ok too. This recipe isn't particularly time sensitive.

Once you've let it simmer for a while, take it off the stove, strain the spices out, and you'll be left with only the concentrate. My highly technical straining method involves balancing a colander on top of a large measuring cup. The spout is handy for pouring into mugs for serving.

Fill a mug halfway with chai concentrate. Fill the other half with milk. Equal parts. Easy as that.

If you have a steamer, go ahead and steam your milk first. If you don't... use my method. Heat milk in microwave, then use the whisk attachment on your electric hand mixer. It'll get you some froth, and that's all that matters. Sprinkle a little cinnamon or nutmeg on top (or both!) and voila! Coffee bar chai latte, just in time to kick back for a little guilty pleasure Monday night TV viewing at its finest. The Bachelorette. Yes, I know, feel free to judge me, I'm judging me too. And yet, I can't stop watching...

The rest of the concentrate will last up to a week in the fridge. And hey, maybe even longer, but it's never made it longer than a week in my fridge before being used up, so I wouldn't know.



  1. mm. I'll try this. Your pictures are excellent!

  2. This sounds so good. I love that it is a homemade version of something you normally would buy in a box. Maybe I'll go for an iced chai since it's about 90 degrees here today...! :)
    -Sarah @ Two Tarts

  3. It makes the house smell much better than something you would buy in a box too ;) I haven't tried it iced, but that may be what I have to switch to here soon!