I love spiced tea. I would have to say my favorite store-bought chai is the Stash brand, and I like both their black and green chai teas. However, it’s way more fun and rewarding to make your own chai.
The first step is to decide what you want to use for the base. You can use just about anything. The most convenient option for most people is probably water, which can be really delicious all by itself. If you want to try something a little more thick and creamy, you can use any combination of other beverages as the base. I’m a fan of whole milk, but for anyone who prefers something a little lighter or non-dairy, you can always use any combination of regular, soy, almond, or coconut milk, or anything else that you think might be delicious.
I tried making chai with a milk base for the first time very recently. I was a little bit worried that I would burn the milk before I could steep it as long as I would have liked, but I found that putting a pot of milk and spices on the stove over low heat and leaving it for an extended period of time (I think it was about half an hour) resulted in really delicious tea that was not burned at all. This definitely took a while, and I did have to stir it occasionally to keep a skin from forming on top of the milk, so this is a project best left for slow days when you have time to check in on it while it steeps. If you’re in a hurry, plain hot water is much more convenient.
Once you’ve chosen your base liquid, you need to choose your tea and spices. My favorite spices for chai are cardamom and cinnamon, and many chai recipes call for cloves, allspice, peppercorns, and star anise. One thing to keep in mind is that you want to use the whole versions of these spices, not powdered forms. In my experience, most powdered spices don’t dissolve completely, which creates a slightly gritty texture that I dislike.
Finally, you have to choose your tea. The flavor of the tea that you choose can make a huge difference in the overall flavor of the end product. It’s a lot of fun to experiment with different types of tea as and see how the flavors interact with the spices you’ve chosen. Any kind of basic black tea will work. Assam teas and most breakfast blend teas have worked very well for me, and these teas will produce a flavor similar to the “traditional” flavor of most chai teas that I’ve tried.
So, to sum up, choose your liquid, choose your spices and tea, heat them up together, and drink! The process is pretty simple, which makes it easier to experiment with different ingredients.
For some recipes and other ideas on how to make your chai, check out the links below:
“How to Make the Best Chai Ever” from The Hathi Cooks: http://thehathicooks.blogspot.com/2011/11/how-to-make-best-chai-ever.html
“Authentic Indian Chai” from A Spicy Perspective: http://www.aspicyperspective.com/2012/03/how-to-make-chai-tea.html
“Chai Tea Recipe” from Simply Recipes: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/chai/
And for those of you with more strict diets:
“Vegan Chai to Make You Fall in Love with Mornings” from Mind Body Green: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-12562/vegan-chai-to-make-you-fall-in-love-with-mornings.html
“Paleo Chai Latte” from Elana’s Pantry: http://www.elanaspantry.com/paleo-chai-latte/
Good luck finding your favorite combinations!
Disclaimer: The author of this blog is not responsible for the results of experimental chai.