Spicy Chai: The Antidote for Cold Days

A while ago my Sister in Law and I were trying to figure out some yummy, healthy winter drinks.  We both love Chai but were loath to use the pre-mixes.  She provided a really fantastic from scratch recipe and we ended up making some modifications to it and printing it in one of our catalogs. Since then I’ve tweaked it even more and it’s now a much spicier version than what it was before.  It is hands down the most flavorful, warm, spicy-warm-you to your toes drink I’ve ever had.

Spicy Chai Tea

– 4 to 6 Cups Filtered Water
– 4 Tablespoons loose leaf black tea (the stronger the better!) Can also use regular Lipton tea bags, I get the best results if I use 6.
– 3-4 Tablespoons Evaporated Cane Juice or Rapadura. One can cheat and use white sugar. I have also used a combination liquid, debittered Stevia, honey and Sorgum with some success. They add their own slants of flavor though so make sure you like the sweetener before you use it.
– 1 large Toe Fresh Ginger peeled then grated or chopped (grated is stronger/spicier, chopped is slightly milder)
– 4 cinnamon sticks (I frequently add more)
– 4 cloves
– 10 Whole Allspice (Can be cracked with a mortar and pestle to release more flavor)
– 1 tsp. Cardamom (lightly crushed with a mortar and pestle to release the flavor)
– 1 tsp. ground Nutmeg
– Pinch Tumeric (not too much of this, can throw the whole balance flavor off for the entire drink)

– Pinch of black pepper

– Small (very small) dash of Cayenne. Can be left out or replaced with a tiny bit of mild red chile pepper for that hint of warm-roasted spice flavor.

– 2 tsp. Vanilla
– Cream or Milk to taste. Can also use Coconut Milk for a delicious tropical variation!

Add water, Rapadura or other sweetener and spices to a 2 to 3 quart pan and bring to a slow boil. After about 45 minutes (the longer, the stronger the spice taste) minutes, add loose tea or bags and continue to simmer as long as appropriate, 5 minutes or more.

Remove from heat and strain through a tight mesh strainer into a 4 cup measuring cup. Stir in vanilla. Some of the liquid may have boiled away. Add back enough hot water to make 4 cups of tea. Serve with 1/4 cup warm cream or milk in each cup.

Trouble Shooting Tips: If it tastes “watery” consider adding a bit of extra powdered cinnamon and ginger. Taste after each addition. If all the flavors don’t seem to be blending very well consider adding extra sweetener. Sweetness is what binds the whole thing together, without enough of that you end up with a bunch of solo flavors competing with each other and tasting more than a bit out of tune. If there is no tea flavor whatsoever consider a strong tea or steeping longer. The bolder the tea flavor the more ideal it is for this recipe.  If the overall thing is just too “bold” with the spice flavors after adding extra sweetener and adding cream consider adding another splash of Vanilla. It can be that calm, soothing note that can make the whole thing become a beautiful medley on the tongue. Keep in mind that because you are using whole herbs and fresh ingredients flavor variations from one batch to another will happen. Don’t be afraid to tweak it around from one batch to another to get it just the way you like it.

Extra can be made up in it’s “concentrated” version and stored in the fridge to be re-heated and served later. This makes a nice and convenient treat to make ahead of time. I also consider this to be an immune boosting beverage if the sugar free versions of it are made because most of the spices used are incredibly beneficial to the body in fighting colds, flu and other winter ailments.

Let me know what you think if you make it!