When I was a youngin' one of my favourite books was The Witches by Roald Dahl. Growing up, my sister, my friend and I spent hours "brewing" dirt, sticks, detergent (and on one memorable occasion, my grandmother's expensive collection of Lancome cosmetics) into "potions". We kept spell books, recited incantations, and read and re-read The Witches until we were just about able to recite it word-for-word.
Now that I'm all grown up I don't have the childlike abandon required to permit myself to run about the house tipping this, that and the other into my cauldron, gleefully proclaiming magical skill (a lamentable side effect of getting older is that potion preparation at the age of twenty-two gives the impression that one is just a little "off"). Instead, I bake cakes, cook dinners, and tonight I made chai.
To my mind, the enjoyment of chai is as much in the preparation as it is in the consumption. Meditatively stirring a pot of chai, breathing in the smells of warming spices, is about as close as I can get to brewing up a potion without freaking out my boyfriend or cooking up my cat. I've heard it said that you know you're getting old when you get excited at the prospect of a warm cup of tea. Well folks, I'm undeniably getting older, but I get excited for chai not because I'm ageing, but because it lets me indulge my inner eight year old for a little while.
What you will need:
This recipe makes enough for four cups of chai, or thereabouts.
- 2 cups of milk (Bonsoy works well, for those who like soymilk)
- 1 1/2 cups of water
- Two heaped teaspoons of good quality loose leaf black tea
- Four or five cardamom pods, bashed so they're split open
- One cinnamon stick, or about half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- One three centimeter piece of fresh ginger, peeled and bruised slightly to allow it to release its flavour
- Eight to ten cloves
- Just a splash of vanilla essence (or some vanilla beans, if you have some)
- Two large desert spoons of sugar, I use brown or raw sugar because I prefer the way it tastes. Some people prefer to use honey, but I think it overwhelms the spices.
What you will need to do:
Preparation is so simple, it's really just a matter of throwing everything into a pot and simmering until ready - more or less the same method I employed when brewing up potions in the back yard with my sister! Add all of the above ingredients to a pot and slowly raise the temperature until your chai is simmering (don't allow your chai to boil as the milk may burn). Stir constantly for around fifteen minutes, then strain. You can serve at this point, or else transfer back to the pot and whisk until it is a little bit foamy. Home made chai is so much better than the bought stuff, and it's such a lot of fun to make. Enjoy.