I often thought (and still do sometimes) that I didn’t have an obsession. Some people are obsessed with sports teams, others with Sharpies, and still others with things like selfies (does anyone else out there not have a cell phone capable of this?!). I always thought to myself, “Not me . . . I’m so adaptable. I can give up anything and be fine.”
And then I moved to China. And everything normal was stripped away.
Our first year, I was desperate to find something normal to put into my mouth. I ate cereal for breakfast my entire life. Gone. The bread is sweet here. No lunch meat for a simple sandwich. I could find peanut butter..sometimes. And dinners, if you remember from my first post, were utterly disastrous.
Before we moved here, I had become, ahem, quite acquainted with chai tea. Not the tea bags. Sorry, not much of a tea girl besides the bliss of a carton of Oregon. Mix it with milk, and oh baby. Heaven in a cup. I didn’t have it every single day, but pretty darn close!
I know most people turn to coffee for their daily dose of comfort or energy, and don’t get me wrong, this former barista loves a good latte. But good coffee is hard to come by here. It doesn’t help that my all-time favorite is from a local coffee shop in Kansas City. They definitely don’t have the “made in China” stamp on the back, so no chance of finding it here. Plus, since I was a barista, I became a bit of a snob. Brewed coffee just doesn’t cut it anymore. Foamed milk, espresso, sugary syrups…now we’re talking. Or not. Because lattes are hard to come by without breaking the bank, if at all.
So I went back to my first love. I had to figure out a way to make it at home. I’ve made at least a dozen different recipes for chai over the past few years. This is a combination of some of those. It’s no replica of Oregon (oh, the day I figure that one out!), but my body yearns for it every afternoon while my kids give me an hour of peace. You may have to hunt for or ask for an ingredient or two, but if you long for a warm cup of spicy goodness to refresh you, you’ll make it happen!
The line-up (minus the brown sugar): black tea, vanilla bean, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom.
Bring the water to a boil, dump everything in, and steep for 20 minutes. Extra bonus to drinking this deliciousness: it makes your home smell wonderful for hours!
Strain. Not the prettiest set-up, but whatev. Gets the job done! After you strain, add the brown sugar.
Grab a mug. Lately, I’ve found that I love a little dollop of sweetened condensed milk added. What can I say? I love my chai tea sweet!
To make a latte, pour into a mug 1/2 concentrate, 1/2 milk. Pour this mixture into a small pot to warm up. If you whisk extra fast, you can even get a little froth! You can, of course, do this all in the microwave, but I’ll tell you it doesn’t taste as good.
Do your best to keep it away from little hands. Is it bad that my 4 year-old likes chai as much as I do?
Chai Tea Concentrate
Makes enough for about 5-6 lattes
4.5 cups water
1” knob of ginger, peeled and cubed
6-10 whole cloves or ½ tsp ground cloves*
2 cinnamon sticks or 1 tsp ground cinnamon*
1 tsp ground cardamom or 3-4 cardamom pods**
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp vanilla extract***
6 black tea bags
1/2-2/3 c brown sugar (or honey)
*The more ground ingredients you use, the more you’ll have at the bottom of your cup. If this bothers you, you can strain the finished chai through a cheese cloth.
**I bought my ground cardamom in the States, but have since learned it’s widely available in China, but in the pods. Hooray! Also, I bought my whole cloves in my normal, local grocery store. A bag that lasts me all year cost about 50 cents. Cinnamon sticks are also bought locally for about 20 cents for 5.
***I usually use vanilla beans (found on Taobao) because I couldn’t stand to use all my extract. I figured their flavor isn’t all extracted after one use, so I’ll reuse them 2 or 3 more times.
Bring water to a boil. Add all ingredients and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain out all ingredients. (Use cheese cloth if you want all the spice granules out.) Stir in sugar/honey while it’s still hot.
This recipe is extremely flexible! Add more or less of the flavors you like most.
To drink: In a mug, add ½ chai concentrate, ½ milk. Reheat.
Store in the refrigerator. This batch lasts me about a week, but would be good up to 2 weeks.
What drinks refresh you?