There are lots of good reasons to enjoy chai – a spiced, milky tea – but too often you get the Starbucks-type version, which is an ultra-sweet syrup added to hot milk. Making your own is a relaxing ritual, and absolutely worth it, if for no other reason than to find a way to use up some of those bottles of spices bought for other recipes but rapidly losing their freshness and gathering dust in a cupboard or rack somewhere.
Now I’m the first to admit the version below is lacking in authenticity in a big way; not only does it use almond milk, but the mix of spices was more dictated by what I like and happened to have in the house than by attachment to any particular tradition. So please see this as an experiment more than a recipe.
This makes a generous mugful; I have also made double the amount and kept it in a small insulated flask to sip through the afternoon. And please note that sugar free means fructose free – so it’s I Quit Sugar suitable, but does contain an optional sweetener in the form of rice malt syrup.
300ml unsweetened almond milk
1 heaped tablespoon black tea (I favour Darjeeling)
6 cardamom pods
3 whole cloves
1 star anise
3 whole peppercorns
1-2 cinnamon sticks
A dash of ground ginger, or a small knob of fresh, grated
A dash of grated nutmeg (fresh is nice, but not essential)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (powder if you want to be completely fructose free, but it is just a trace)
Up to 1 tsp rice malt syrup, optional (to taste)
1. Warm the milk on the hob to just below simmering point. Bringing it to this point first prevents the tea from stewing later.
2. Add the tea and flavourings, and keep at a very gentle simmer for a couple of minutes. Take off the heat and allow to sit for another minute so it completely brews without boiling.
3. Strain and sip.
In my more experimental phases, I’ve been known to throw in a teaspoon or so of milky ooling tea to add a buttery caramel note, but that’s definitely an unorthodox mix of cultures…