I love chai masala. I could drink it every single day and never get sick of it. I’m a ginger fiend. The cloves and cardamom and cinnamon are like a spicy hug. The little boost of caffeine helps me in my moments of need. It’s all perfection.
In my stories, my characters are all a piece of me in some way, so it’s no surprise that most of them drink chai. During the “search and edit overused words” phase of my first book, for kicks and giggles, I decided to search for the word chai:
As I told my writing buddy, Jack – I regret nothing. Chai masala is delicious. The end.
There’s not a coffee shop in this city that I haven’t taste-tested the chai. Some are deliciously spicy; others taste like cinnamon oat milk. I will drink it plain. I will dress it up as a latte. I will, sometimes, even try a new flavor. (The Sweetie Pie Chai I once had in at the Steaming Cup in Waukesha, WI, is still a favorite – a chai masala latte with English Toffee flavoring.) My tea cubby is easily 75% different versions of chai. So it’s unsurprising that this particular drink ends up in my writing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
If you, like me, enjoy chai, I offer you this recipe – a homemade chai concentrate:
Chai Masala Concentrate
- 2 inches ginger, sliced thinly
- 2-4 cinnamon sticks
- 10 cloves
- 10-15 cardamom pods
- 15-20 black peppercorns
- (option – you can add a star anise or two)
- 10 cups water
- 10 teaspoons loose leaf black tea
An optional (but recommended step) is to break (but not pulverize into powder) cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and peppercorns (it’s important not to turn them into powder because then you can’t strain them out of the concentrate). On medium heat, dry roast the spices in a pot for a minute (or until they become fragrant). This will only kick the chai up a level – but it’s not necessary.
Add the water and bring to a boil; boil for five minutes (if you don’t dry roast, give them ten minutes to boil). Your house is going to smell amazing right about now! Bring down to a simmer and add the black tea and mix well. Simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat. (I’m not a sweet tea drinker – so I don’t add anything, but you can add sugar to taste at this step – stir until it dissolves.) At this point, you’ll want to trust your tongue. You will want this to taste like tea – and we don’t want to tip over into bitter. The recipe calls to let it all steep for another fifteen minutes off the heat. Remember that this is a concentrate – so it will taste strong.
Strain liquid to remove tea leaves and spices. Store in the fridge. Use 1:1 ration with your preferred milk or milk substitute. You can serve it steamed, heated, or chilled.
Fun addition – if you like vanilla chai, I recommend making your own vanilla extract* and adding a splash to your chai. (*1 cup vodka, 1 vanilla bean scored with a sharp knife – put bean and vodka into air tight container and let sit a minimum of eight weeks, giving a gentle shake now and then)