Yippee Chai Yay

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The weather is cooling off and I’d wager to say that many of you are enjoying the need for an extra blanket and sweater in the morning and starting to crave fall spices and warm drinks. If you take care of the blanket and sweater, I’ll help you out on the spice and drink front.

The word chai means tea. Here in the states, we call it chai tea. That means that we are actually saying “tea tea”, but we feel pretty cool saying it and let’s face it, nobody really cares. Many of us will order it at a coffee shop, but rarely brave to make it on our own at home, unless it is from a box. Coffee houses used to almost predominately make their chai from boxed concentrate, but there is a slow growing popularity for making it from fresh spices. I urge you to join this movement because making your own chai is not only delicious, it makes your house smell like you’re living inside a Christmas themed air freshener (naturally scented, of course). Plus, it’s way easier than you think.

Before I pass on my recipe to you, there are a few insider tips you should know. One is that the type of milk you blend it with will make a difference. Cow’s milk is considered to be sweet and cooling, so the spicy spices like ginger and cinnamon can be muted. If you are using a non-dairy milk (mylk), keep in mind that the thinner the mylk (rice and coconut thinnest, almond thinner than cashew or soy) the more those spices will pop. The other thing to know is that even though it kind of puts you in the spice snob category, you should always try to use whole, fresh spices. When you pull a powdered spice from a shelf, you may not not how long it was sitting or even where it was before you purchased it. Because it will dry over time, many of the volatile oils that give the flavor and therapeutic benefits will be decreased or even gone. In some cases, the spice may take on an entirely different quality. For example, dried ginger is more heating in our body than fresh ginger.

This recipe is what I use and I make it for the masses. Well, I make a fairly large batch and then bottle it up to use over time. It keeps really well when refrigerated and in theory, you could make a batch and use it for at least a week or more depending on your daily hankerings.


Jai Chai Concentrate

  • 8 cups filtered water
  • 3 inches ginger root, sliced into ginger coins
  • 12 whole star anise
  • 10 whole clove
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg, ground from whole seed
  • 3 tsp. cardamom, ground from decorticated seed
  • 6 tsp. cinnamon, ground from chipped cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. black pepper, ground from peppercorn
  • 2 tsp. dried orange granules
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (omit, increase or use sweetener of choice)
  • 2 Tbs. earl grey tea
  • 5 Tbs. assam tea or black tea of choice

Prep time: 05 min. | Cook time: 40 min. | Total time: 45 min.

Bring pot of water to boil. Add ginger. Add anise and clove, breaking apart with fingers before putting in water. Add the remaining ingredients (nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, orange, vanilla and sweetener) except the tea. Reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. Add tea by either adding the tea leaves to the pot or using a tea sachet or diffuser. Remove from heat. Allow to steep 5-10 minutes. The concentrate should be darker and more viscous when ready. Strain by using a strainer or cheesecloth. When you are ready to add your milk or mylk, kick back and drink this labor of love, mix using an equal parts ratio. The concentrate and milk/mylk can be heated together. Drink victoriously.

A few extra notes: I dig the companies Frontier and Mountain Rose Herbs for my spices if you can't find anything local. Always prefer organic and fair trade. Instead of a mortar pestle, I love to use Bodum coffee grinders for all spices (I have a separate one for heating and cooling spices), except for the nutmeg for which I reserve my beloved Microplane.

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