I remember the first time I drank chai tea. Luckily, I was at a very ethereal, spicy-smelling, seemingly authentic Indian restaurant, and the (hot) chai they served was out-of-this-stratosphere. I was spoiled by that first experience, wanting every cup of chai afterwards to taste exactly like that one. But eventually, I gave into the conveniences of the tea-bag, a trend that has continued for years.
So I can't explain why, when, over the holiday weekend, I woke up and inexplicably craved chai--delicious, fattening (because of the cream), fragrant chai. I rummaged through the cupboards and realized I didn't have absolutely every single ingredient, but I improvised, not willing to make a grocery trip on the fourth. This is what I came up with, and while it isn't perfectly authentic, it's still pretty damn good. I had mine iced.
(you can obviously up the quantites as much as you want--I was making this for myself and the husband.)
- 2 cups almond milk
- 1 cup half-n-half (yes, I said one cup. That's right.)
- four tea-bags of black tea (try to get the highest quality you can find)
- 1 vanilla pod
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- literally a pinch of freshly grated ginger root
- pinch of cardamom and nutmeg
- sweetner of your choice (I used stevia and tasted the mixture frequently)
In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, pour in the milk and half-n-half. Bring the mixture to just bubbling--you don't want to scald the milk. Add the tea bags, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla. Let this bubble away for about 7 minutes, adding just a tiny amount of water to the mixture if you think it's getting too thick. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, and sweetner. Allow the mixture to cook for about 5 minutes, then take off the heat and let cool. When no longer piping hot, strain the mixture into another pan or a glass bowl--you don't want any spicy bits floating around in your drink.
To serve, fill glasses with ice and (just because) an extra splash of half-n-half. Ladle the tea into the glasses and swish the ice around briefly with a spoon. I like to leave the cream just slightly uncombined--it looks all swirled and pretty in the glass. But that last part is up to you.