One of the greatest compliments I have ever received was from my youngest daughter’s friend when she dubbed me “Queen of Beverages”. Both girls were in elementary school at the time, when kids often have quite fussy palates, so I considered this a real feat. While I personally find the title “Queen of Beverages” perhaps a bit overstated, I continue to do everything I am able to live up to the honor.
A great beverage can be a great comfort, especially on a cold winter’s day.
One of my many favorite winter warm ups is a good cup of chai. You should know, up front, that I am very fussy about my chai. The sickening sweet concentrate version will never do. You can make a great chai “to order” so to speak; chopping and pounding necessary spices at the time, or you can make up a larger batch and have it at the ready for weeks, or months, ahead. If you end up being a chai lover, like me, I recommend that latter.
Bearing in mind that preferences will vary regarding degree of spice or balance of flavors, consider this general recipe a jumping off place.
You will need:
approximately 4oz. of a good quality loose leaf black tea (decaf is okay)
1 hand sized piece of organic fresh ginger
4 3-4″ cinnamon sticks
approximately 1/8 C of these herbs and/or spices:
- whole green cardamom pods
- whole cloves
- pink tellicherry peppercorns
- blue cornflowers
Chop ginger into small, approximately 1/8″ pieces and dry them slowly in an oven at 150 degrees (fahrenheit.) Drying happens slowly, at a low temperature, in order to retain the greatest nutritional value of the ginger. The process of drying the ginger is something that is easy to do when you are home for the day or evening. You just check in on it about once an hour. It makes the house smell great. Drying time varies pretty widely. Depending on water content in the ginger, 1.5-3 hours is a reasonable window to allow for. You can also use a food dehydrator if you have one.
While the ginger is drying you’ll want to rough up your cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods a bit. I prefer to use a Japanese version of a mortar and pestle that is called a suribachi, as it is the most effective I have come across after many years of trying. You don’t have to invest in seemingly obscure (although I promise, it’s not) kitchen equipment to try this recipe out. You can simply use a good knife and a cutting board.
The cinnamon should be broken into very small pieces. Again, that 1/8″ goal is a good one to go for. The cardamom just needs to be bruised a bit.
When all of this is done; ginger dried (and cooled to room temperature) and spices properly macerated, you can simply mix everything together in a large mixing bowl and store your blend in an airtight container to use as desired.
To make a great cup of chai:
(For best results, you’ll want to warm your tea cup, and/or pot, by pouring boiling water into it/them and allowing them to sit for about a minute.)
Bring water to a good boil
Wrap cup or teapot in a kitchen towel to keep it warm and allow to steep for 5 minutes. Sweeten with honey and add milk, cream or a milk substitute.
c ShuNahSii Rose 2017