Chai Tea is not an unfathomable concoction that requires some mystery mix out of a can to create. Basically, it’s tea with spices in it, and as I pointed out in my article, The Simple Life: Use What You Have, you can pull this together with what you’ve got in the cupboard.
Because I cook Indian food on a regular basis, I’ve got a few spices you may not have, namely green cardamom seeds, which admittedly, are challenging to find. In BigTown, population 50,000, there is one little shop — open on the most baffling basis — where I can find these, but when I don’t have them, I still get just fine Chai Tea.
I’m guessing you’ve got powdered cinnamon around, if you can’t find the sticks; and cloves, whole or powdered, are usually in the very back of most people’s cupboards.
As far as tea goes, I’m a snob, and I like the loose leaves. For a pot of tea, I’ll put in 3-6 tablespoons of leaves in an old coffee carafe that has been cleaned completely of the taste of coffee. I pour over boiling water to fill the carafe, and let steep for 3-5 minutes (I like strong tea). Generally, I can get another two good pots out of these same leaves, and the third pot is what I use for the Chai Tea. By that point, the tea taste is so anemic that the brew is calling out for some flavor, any flavor, anywhere.
There are lots of places to buy tea in bulk, by my Internet option of choice is Upton Tea.
Let’s make tea — it’s cold outside, and tea warms the stomach and the soul.
Easy Chai Tea — makes 12 6-ounce servings
1 cinnamon stick or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 whole cloves or 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1-inch ginger root, peeled, or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
4 green cardamoms, bruised (if you can’t find these, you’ll still have a fine tea)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 Tablespoons sugar or honey, optional (I use organic free trade sugar that I buy at Costco, but you can get it at Amazon.com)
1/2 to 1 cup milk, warmed, also optional
Black Tea — either use tea bags, 4-8 depending on how strong you want your brew, or loose leaves (see the article above for how I re-use loose leaves)
Boiling water, enough to fill a 12-cup coffee carafe, if you’re not adding milk, or to the 8-10 cup mark, if you’re adding milk
While the water is boiling, add the cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and cardamoms — whether in whole or powdered form — to the container where you’ll be making the tea. If you are using used tea leaves, toss the spices atop the leaves. If you are using bags, add them in with the spices. Add the optional sugar or honey.
Pour water atop and let steep for 5 minutes. Stir. If you’re using milk, pour it into the container from which you will be serving the tea (I strain my tea from the carafe into my Polish tea pot), and then strain the tea into the pot.
Serve and enjoy. I told you this was easy.
Thank you for joining me on my Tuesday recipe column. Good food doesn’t need to be complicated, and it isn’t unaffordable. The more you cook and create for yourself, the better you get, and the more your palate demands flavor and quality.
I say this every week, but cooking for yourself is the first, easiest, and most approachable way of saving money, and you never lose when you learn to be more independent and self-sufficient. My book, Live Happily on Less, is a series of easy-to-read, pleasant essays that walk you through the process of improving your lifestyle at the same time you learn to live on less.
This is the world we live in, folks. The people at the top make big promises, but nobody’s holding them to keeping them. And words are cheap — “they” say they care about you, but the person your life and family matter most to are you. If you want to make things better, do something. Nobody else will.