Thursday, July 14, 2011

chai concentrate

Perhaps everyone already knows how to make fresh or homemade chai concentrate, and I was the only sucker out there buying bags of floor blend chai, steeping it for too long, then drowning it in cream and sugar. It is amazing how much taste paper has when you have bagged tea. Must. Buy. More. Loose. Tea.

Needless to say, during the summer, I really don't even make bagged chai tea for myself because the whole icing process takes so dang long and gets watery, and meh. I'll just drink iced coffee. Yes, yes, I know I can buy chai concentrate at the market, but it always is too sweet for me.

Last week, I went on vacation with my in-laws, and my sister-in-law showed me how to make chai from scratch. Well, chai concentrate. I was hooked on a feeling--of chai. I can warm it without losing taste, or just pour it over some ice with a bit of milk and call it an afternoon (caffeine boost).

So, let me just preface this entire post by saying that whenever I say that I want chai, I think of that Kajagoogoo song, Too Shy, except I change the words to "Too Chai Chai". I blame my wacky sister for that one. But just so you know this is what is going on my head right at this moment.

You're too chai chai. Hush Hush. Ay?You?Ay? Eye To Eye? Eye Ooooo I? I do AYE!

If you have any ideas what that last line of the refrain is, I would appreciate insight. The hair in that video, and the dancing for the love of all that's holy, my Lord. Remember, kids, prolonged cocaine use results in that. Just. Say. No.

That was my PSA today.

Alright, onto chai. Firstly, I consulted Le Google for other chai recipes/ideas, and people are very passionate about the correct and proper Indian way to make chai. I just like how it tastes, and thusly, I make it in a way that reflects no tradition or ritual. I just make it.

So, the herbs and spices for chai are cinnamon, black pepper (now, I am thinking of Cibo Matto's White Pepper Ice Cream, who incidentally, I saw in 1994 and they were wearing silver spacesuits with skirts while they performed. I heart Cibo Matto. I should have linked them instead of the too chai chai song.) So, let's just pull out the mortar and pestle and talk about ingredients in there:

One cinnamon stick snipped with kitchen shears.
Some (I used six) whole tellicherry black peppercorns
One star anise
Three pods of cardamom
Six whole cloves
Two bay leaves

I then ground it together, roughly, but still mortar and pestled the shit out of it.

 I then put it in the linen tea bag, which actually is a bouquet garni bag from the kitchen store. I used about six cups of water in a saucepan. I sliced fresh ginger, about 1/4" of it and put it loose in the water (I can pull those out fairly easily, unlike all the other spices). I put it on a pot to boil. Your house smells awesome, if an awesome tea isn't incentive enough.

Once it began boiling, I started my timer for about five minutes. After the five minutes were up, I turned off the heat and added my loose organic assam tea in one of those metal tea infusers. You can use any black tea. I have read on some websites that you absolutely are not to use leaf tea for chai (there is an Indian pellet type tea as an alternative), but I think it tastes good. I used two tablespoons in a tea infuser. Steep for ten minutes. After removing the tea and spices, I added sugar to taste. I use raw sugar for everything, so my measurements might not match yours. And incidentally, if you don't have all these infusing helpers (linen bags/infusers), you can put them loose in the water, then run them through a strainer. I just am not too coordinated with that type of pouring. As it was, I spill a quarter of my chai when getting it into a mason jar.

I use mason jars for just about everything and my chai concentrate is no different. I couldn't pass up hot, perfect chai tea even on a 95 degree day, so I had a small mug with 3/4 tea, 1/4 milk, because that is how I roll. But only you really know how much cream you like. Experiment. Next batch, I may add some vanilla bean. Holy cow, that sounds good.

This is what I am enjoying as I sit and write this post--iced chai tea with half and half. Yummikins.

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