Spiced chai lattes have become a mainstay at coffeeshops throughout the world, offering many people their first glimpse into the vast world of tea. A rich cup of chai can be just the way to get going, or a great evening mug to cap off the day. We love the concept of a cup of chai- it is ultimately an alchemical challenge- melding together just the right balance of spices to engage the whole palate, and balance with black tea, milk and honey.
Crafting a Chai Spice Blend
If you want a very simple chai from ingredients you have in your cupboard you can put together a warming blend with cinnamon, ginger, peppercorn and cardamom. When we do new formulations, we blend by smell. When the smell of all the ingredients is balanced in such a way that you don’t pick out one over the other, but instead they combine to be one integrated sensation, that is when you have nailed the proportions. Depending on the freshness and origin of your spices, these proportions can vary dramatically, so play around a bit. Otherwise, we have crafted our own signature chai spice with 100% organic ingredients, now used at the top coffeeshops in Minneapolis. We incorporate more exotic additions like saffron, vanilla, tulsi, goji berry and burdock for perfect balance. Pick up a bag of chai spice to give yourself a head start in the kitchen.
Choosing a Base Tea for Your Spiced Chai
Almost all chai is made with an Indian base tea, often an Assam. There has been a long tradition of seeking out an “edge” or astringency in the black tea base to cut through the milk. We think this tradition is based more on what has been historically available than on the wisest flavor blending. We think the base tea should be intensely rich and malty with strong honey and chocolate tones. These strong flavors will stand out even with milk, but they will not leave a dryness or sourness in the aftertaste. Instead, they will help meld together the chai spices, and stand as a strong foundation. A creamy base tea will be accentuated, not overpowered by milk. We use Laoshan Black tea as our go-to in providing chai for the top coffeeshops in Minneapolis trusting us to supply them with the best. In absence of Laoshan Black, a Wuyi Oolong, a thick and sweet Yunnan Black, or a chocolatey Fujianese black are all good possibilities.
Brewing your Chai
You have your spice blend and your base tea. Next, you need to boil water. If possible, use filtered water, adding about one 8oz cup per 12oz mug-sized serving. (The rest of the liquid will be milk) Add a tablespoon of chai spice for every cup of water used and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for ten minutes.
Next, add two teaspoons of your base tea per cup of water. Allow to simmer gently for two minutes, and remove from heat. Allow the pot to sit for four more minutes while the leaves steep. Pour the entire mixture through a strainer into another pot or bowl. A brew basket will work as a very fine strainer for this purpose.
Add up to one tablespoon of honey per cup of chai. We use a mixture of raw basswood and clover honey with a touch of raw buckwheat honey for a dark rich mollasses quality. Stir in one fourth cup of milk or milk substitute and bring the liquid to a low simmer before serving. We prefer almond milk for its sweet, thick and balanced flavor. Enjoy hot, or store in the refrigerator for an iced chai.
Chai Concentrate Recipe Variation
To make a concentrated chai for adding to drinks, baked goods, or soups, try this recipe variation:
Boil 2 cups of filtered water and add 3 tablespoons of chai spice. Simmer for 30 minutes uncovered to reduce the liquid. Add 2 tablespoons of base tea and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to sit for eight minutes. Strain, and stir in two and a half tablespoons of honey. Use immediately, or chill in the refrigerator. You could even freeze ice cubes of chai for spiced cocktails.