Saturday, October 20, 2012

Homemade Chai Concentrate

Fall is officially here, and we're making the most of it: hiking, apple picking, pumpkin carving (and seed roasting), soup cooking, and chai drinking!

All three of my children took to chai last winter and we went through many cartons of decaf Tazo chai concentrate.  I felt uneasy each time I poured it into our mugs, fearing the BPA the box lining contained.  The only peace of mind I had was knowing it was the only source they encountered the harmful chemical, outside of holding the receipt from Costco once in a while for the door checker to draw a smiley face on it (if the marker happens to be one of their favorite colors).  But still, if I can eliminate the harmful substance entirely from our home, why not do it?  Besides, we take great joy from being close to the food and beverages we consume...I'm happy to report chai is now on regular drink preparation rotation!

The ingredients in chai can be on the pricey side if you don't live near a large city with ethnic food markets where spices are cheaper.  If you live in a small town, I suggest purchasing them in bulk (the concentrate is so good, you won't have any trouble using the ingredients up).  I'm fortunate to live in Wisconsin where Penzeys is headquartered, so spices are quite accessible in their many neighborhood stores...and very reasonably priced. 

The recipe below makes about 3 cups of concentrate.  If you have a family of chai-lovers, I'd suggest doubling it right off the bat (and purchasing decaf tea if you enjoy your chai in the evenings like we do). Once the concentrate is prepared, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week or so.

  • 3½ cups water
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 star anise
  • ¼ teaspoon anise seeds
  • 8 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced (there's no need to peel it)
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns (lightly crushed for a spicier chai)
  • 4 bags Darjeeling or black tea
  • Combine all the ingredients except the honey and tea in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and allow to strongly simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Add the teabags, cover the pan again, and steep for 20 minutes more.
  • Squeeze the bags, stir in the honey, and strain the concentrate into a container to store in the refrigerator for up to a week or so.
  • To make a latte: Stir together 1 cup milk to ½ cup concentrate (more or less to taste...I make mine half and half) and heat in a saucepan or in the microwave.

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