Monday, January 24, 2011

Masala Chai Concentrate

Mmmmm, delicious masala chai... to me, the perfect masala chai is hot, spicy, thick, creamy and only slightly sweet. My husband has told me about the chai he would drink everywhere when he studied abroad in Kathmandu, Nepal, everywhere from his host home to the movie theater. It was everything I described above, but served with whole goat's milk, so that made it almost a snack in itself.

"Chai tea lattes" from coffee shops always disappoint me. Commercially available chai concentrates leave something to be desired - too sweet, not enough warm spice. When I've bought pre-made chai spiced black tea blends, they also leave something to be desired - they sort of taste how I want, but they aren't quite there yet. I think I've discovered what was missing.

In order to get the full, intense flavor from the spices - the cinnamon, the cloves, the ginger, the anise - requires much more than the five minute steep time of black tea... but you can't steep black tea too long or else it turns bitter. In comes the crock pot. Here, I've taken all of the spices needed to create a delicious cup of chai and simmered them for hours, making a highly flavored concentrate one can then use to steep black tea and mix with milk to create a steaming, warming, wonderful cup of masala chai!

This recipe makes a masala chai spiced concentrate.  I like to make concentrates because they are easier to store in my refrigerator (I can't ever seem to have enough room in there) and I can still have the same cup of tea all week with minimal effort. To make the perfect cup of masala chai from the concentrate, simply follow these instructions:

  • To make hot masala chai: Heat one part of the concentrate to a boil. Remove from heat, quickly stir in one part of your choice of milk (such as half a cup of each), then pour over your favorite black tea and steep for five minutes. Remove the tea leaves, sweeten to taste (if desired) and enjoy.
  • To make iced masala chai: Heat one part of the concentrate to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over your favorite black tea and steep for five minutes. Remove the tea leaves and sweeten to taste (if desired). Mix in one part of your choice of cold milk and pour over ice.
If you do not wish to have a caffeinated  beverage, simply leave out the black tea leaves - mix one part concentrate with one part milk and sip any time of the day!

Milks: Traditionally, masala chai is made with whole cow's milk or goat's milk. You can use any milk you prefer - whole, skim, 2%, soy, rice, almond, hemp, coconut... personally, I like to use vanilla almond milk. It adds a little bit of sweetness and the subtle nutty flavor goes very well with the spices. Condensed milk will make a thick, creamy tea that is sweet enough without adding sugar.
Sweeteners: Honey, raw honey, brown sugar, turbinado sugar, agave nectar or pure cane sugar.

When you make this, your entire home will smell delicious. Cheers to tea!!!

Masala Chai Concentrate
Makes enough for about eight to ten cups of tea.
Use whole spices - not ground
  • one thumb sized section of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 20 green cardamom pods
  • 25 cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 5 allspice berries
  • 5 star anise
Place all ingredients in a slow cooker with four cups of water. Set to the high heat setting and let simmer for six to eight hours. When finished, strain out the spices and cool the concentrate. Store in the refrigerator for about one week. To make a cup of tea, follow the instructions above.

If you don't own a slow cooker, simmer the spices on the stove in a pot with a tight-fitting lid over low heat for 3-4 hours.

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