Fragrant, Spicy, Authentic Chai Tea

So many people love chai nowadays. Years ago you had to visit Indian restaurants to find it. Now it’s one of the most popular drinks at Starbucks. And if you’re craving chai really badly, Starbucks will suffice. But once you’ve had authentic Indian chai, you’ll taste the difference between the fresh ground spices and “chai syrup.” Blech. Okay, not blech. It’s chai tasting stuff. But it’s not THIS. A long time ago my friend and her mother taught me how to make authentic chai tea. This is their recipe times 5.

2 C filtered water
5 Tbsp black tea
5 Tbsp sugar
5 whole peppercorns
5 whole cloves
5 whole cardamom pods (or 1.5 tsp ground cardamom)
1.5 tsp ground ginger
2 C milk

For chai you need cardamom. Car-da-mom. Say it. It sounds earthy and aromatic. You need cardamom and cloves and peppercorns and spicy ginger.

Heat water in a saucepan over medium heat. Add tea and spices and stir well. Omit the ginger—since it is not fresh, it is best to add after the tea has brewed and strained. Dump in the sugar. A good rule of thumb is equal parts tea to sugar, but it depends on your tastes. There is no perfect time to brew the tea because it depends on temperature and your stove and blah blah blah. Instead, look at the color of the liquid in a spoon. It should look like this and smell like tea!

When ready, pour through a sieve into a bottle. I used a really pretty wine bottle. Repurpose! Woo! Press leaves to get out all the liquid. Quickly add ground ginger to the brewed tea and stir well. You can stop now and keep the tea without milk in it, or you can add heated or chilled milk immediately. I use equal parts milk and water but that’s all up to you. My friend’s grandfather prefers less milk so don’t feel like you’re sacrificing authenticity here, y’all.

And oh my, when you taste it…will you ever be a believer in real chai tea. Serve it hot with frothy milk or serve chilled over ice. Either way, you’ll taste such complexity of flavor, such earthy spiciness and such sweetness.

Mmmmm. Starbucks who?


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