So, Chai Tea Latte.
Chai (which is simply the Indian word for ‘tea with milk’) is so much to so many people. Some of the best chai I’ve ever had was at Calcutta railway station – handed through the train window in little clay pots by chaiwallahs – hot, steaming and earthy. I’d take that first sip, and no matter where I was, all the noises and the smells would melt away and the world was just a little safer. I don’t think that feeling ever really goes away.
In ancient times, chai wasn’t made simply as a beverage – it was known for its curative properties. In fact, ayurveda still includes tea leaves as part of several of its medications and cures.
Chai (tea) latte is also super easy to make, and so gratifying if you just show it a little love. The other day, my father in law came to me with a can of pre-made ‘Chai Latte mix syrup’. I sternly told him to put it back and to never speak of this again. This is how serious I am about chai.
I could go on about chai for hours – and everyone knows of its anti-oxidants and the fact that it has caffiene. (And, for the record, it’s true that pound for pound, tea has more caffiene than coffee. However, since one uses much less tea per cup than coffee – per cup, your caffiene intake is much lower. Besides, it’s a mellow rise and fall, as opposed to coffee’s spike-and-crash gruesomeness.)
Anyway, enough rambling. Here’s my version of chai – and you’s be surprised at how great this makes you feel on a rainy Sunday afternoon. No lie – I’m sitting here, writing about chai while drinking a cup of chai. So meta. And it’s actually really easy to make Chai Tea Latte from scratch with whole spices – no grinders or too-sugary syrups required.
- 1 – 1.5 cups of water
- 1/4 cup of milk – the whole-r the better. If you’re using skim/1% milk, I’d also suggest about 1-2 tablespoons of 2% evaporated milk for the richness without the fat
- 1/4 tsp of fresh chopped or dried ginger
- 1 pod cardamom (open it up by pressing between your thumb and the counter to release the yummy black seed things inside)
- Sugar/honey to taste
- 2 cloves
- 1 tsp black tea leaves (You can use a tea bag if you like, but I find that loose leaf teas are of a higher quality overall)
- A pinch of saffron if you’re feeling indulgent
- Bring the water to a boil with the cardamom, cloves, ginger – and let it simmer with the spices for about 5 minutes
- Throw in the sweetener and the tea leaves
- Add the milk (and/or evaporated milk), raise the temperature to just under boiling, and reduce the heat again till it’s just about simmering
- Don’t walk away from the stove at this point – the milk will make it boil over if you’re not careful
- Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes, depending on how strong you like it. (Remember, black tea will go slightly bitter if you steep it too long)
- Turn off the stove and let it sit for another 2-3 minutes. Strain into your cup, and stir in the saffron.
- Option #1 - You can also add a vanilla flavour to the water – but I’d recommend using a bit of vanilla pod (use the seeds for something else) instead of vanilla extract.
- Option #2 - If you have a bad throat/cold/general flu-ey misery – try adding a semi-crushed peppercorn to the water as well. I don’t know why, but it really helps.