Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Spicy Chai Latte

I spend most of my weekdays at the computer. I sit next to a window that faces west, so on a clear night like today, I take a break from studying to watch the sun dip below the horizon, leaving behind purple, pink and orange streaks across the cerulean sky. It’s a little different every night as the clouds dabble with the dramatic effect of shadows and light. I catch the show around 5pm and its definitely a highlight of my day.

So far, this month has been odd. The air is nippy with a bitter chill in the gusty winds, and then just as you’re about to complain that winter ain’t too far away, the weathergods tease you with remarkably sunny and warm temperatures. So warm in fact, I can leave the house with just two layers and a scarf tied loosely around my neck. It’s November people! Then there are some days when it’s miserable and gloomy outside, water droplets pitter patter on the window and on the street, people dash for cover, escaping the rain that failed to give any warning whatsoever.

On these cold yucky days I pile on layers of cotton pajamas and furry socks and a thick sweatshirt just to stay warm. I also saunter to the kitchen and make a cup of coffee topped with frothy milk, then, last week it struck me that I have yet to make some chai. Tea spiked with ginger, cardamom, cloves, black peppercorns and cinnamon, a combination sure to warm my toes. A while ago, I made an apple crumble and had planned to make some chai tea using the same spices but I never got around to it since I was distracted by a birthday every week.


I’ve made homemade chai before yet I could never find the right ratio of spices that I enjoyed. Like Goldilocks, I found the chai too bland, too watery, lacked that kick, or just didn’t taste right. Chai to me (the way I like it and not necessary how it is made traditionally) should be based on a deep earthy flavour from the black tea, then layered with homey spices that commingle to tickle every nerve in your body.

Sometime last week, bundled in my pajamas, I was prompted to turn on the kettle and pull out the necessary spices from my pantry. The whole process took no more than 20 minutes: I bashed the spice mixture, tossed them into the saucepan along with hot milk and let them steep. Before long, I held a steaming mug of chai in my hands, satisfied with the tea, the blend of spices, and the touch of sweetness from the honey. No amount of rain falling from murky clouds could bother me and I promise this chai is sure to enliven your senses too.

Spicy Chai Latte
Adapted from Sara Forte of Sprouted Kitchen

I was scouring the internet for a chai tea recipe and went with Sara's recipe. Actually, it wasn’t so much the recipe that won me over, it was her simple and beautiful photography that pushed me to make this drink. I left out the nutmeg (one spice that I haven’t warmed up to) and cut back the ginger just a little so the other spices can shine through. If you don't mind nutmeg, just click the link above to find her original recipe.

Makes 4 cups

4 tablespoons loose leaf of black tea (preferably Darjeeling)
1 cup milk
1½ inch piece fresh ginger, cut into slices
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 cinnamon sticks

1. In a small plastic bag, combine the peppercorns, cloves and cardamom. Use a heavy mallet or rolling pin to crush the spices into coarse pieces.
2. In a saucepan on medium heat, combine the milk, crushed spices, cinnamon sticks, and ginger pieces. Allow the milk to come to a gentle boil, then cover and turn off the heat. Allow everything to steep for about 15 minutes.

3. While the milk steeps, bring water to a boil. Combine the tea leaves with two cups of boiling water. Allow the tea to steep for about 4 minutes, add the tea to the warm spicy milk.

4. Put a fine mesh sieve or coffee filter over a pitcher and strain the spice chunks out of the tea. Put one tablespoon of honey in each cup and pour the tea latte on top. Stir and enjoy warm.

Recipe here!

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