I recently learned that chai tea, which has been having its moment in the West and elsewhere, has been the most popular beverage in India for some time, and has played an important part in many other cultures. Chai, which means “tea” in Hindi, is derived from tea leaves believed to have originated in the forests of India somewhere around 2700 B.C.
In India, masala chai, which means “spiced tea,” is served consisting of black tea, milk, spices (typically cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and pepper) and a sweetener. From my understanding, a cup of chai is considered part of life in India, with its warming, soothing properties it is understandable why. It is these properties that boosted chai’s incredible popularity in the Western world in recent years, and the people of India are not at all surprised.
My exposure to chai tea has been somewhat limited. To me, it always tasted too sweet. But my mother loves chai and so do some of my good friends. So, this was a fun experiment for me: how to make a delicious tasting chai without too much sugar that I could enjoy on a cold day. I think I found it. I stick with the traditional Indian chai spice profile, which has an amazing aromatic aroma that fills the house when you make it. Technically, this chai recipe is considered a concentrate, used to make chai flavored beverages.
In honor of my mom and her love of a chai, I used my chai to make delicious frothy chai lattes: they did not disappoint. You can use this chai concentrate hot or cold or to make a specialty drink, whatever your heart desires. This easy recipe is great when made ahead and can be stored in the refrigerator for several days without losing any flavor. If you like chai or are open to try it, this is a must try recipe.
Chai Tea Concentrate
- 14 cardamom pods, lightly smashed
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 10 whole cloves
- 3 star anise
- 4 whole allspice
- 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 4 cups cold water
- 5 black tea bags
- Step 1 In a medium-size sauce pan, add the cardamom pods, black peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, allspice, ginger slices, nutmeg, ground cinnamon, brown sugar and water. Place over high heat, stirring occasionally, bring to a boil.
- Step 2 Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes.
- Step 3 Turn the heat off, add the black tea bags and let steep for about 5 minutes.
- Step 4 Strain the chai tea concentrate through a fine strainer into a glass heat-proof container.
- Step 5 If making a chai latte, use 1/2 chai tea mixed with 1/2 hot milk, topped with foam.