This chai recipe is my holy grail. I’ve been searching for it for years, ever since university days when I tried chai made from the Tazo box of chai concentrate. It was exotic and delicious…and achingly sweet. <Sigh> I’ve since found that I feel way better eating as little white sugar as I can manage. (My body is leery of sweet stuff, but my tastebuds are still fond of the stuff.)
This homemade chai is rich and spicy, with loads of fresh ginger, cardamon, fennel, cloves, vanilla and cinnamon. I keep it in the fridge as a concentrate and heat it up with a little plant milk whenever I want a hit of warm, spicy chai (and that would be morning, noon and night). On one of those winter days when it’s cold enough that the snow crunches under my feet (but not so cold that it hurts to breathe) I love to walk into the house and smell chai on the stove. I like this stuff even more than hot chocolate.
The spices are favourites for healing in Ayurveda:
- Ginger is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
- Cardamon clears sinuses, stimulates the mind and heart and “brings clarity and joy”. How’s that for a multi-tasking spice? It’s also considered an aphrodisiac and was a main ingredient in ancient love options. So, there you go.
- Clove is great for stimulating agni (digestive fire) without aggravating the pitta dosha. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- Fennel is one of the best herbs for digestion. You’ve probably noticed small saucers of fennel seeds, rather than mints, at the counter in Indian restaurants. Fennel also calms the nerves.
- Cinnamon lowers LDL cholesterol, improves cognitive function and reduces certain pain, especially arthritis.
- Black pepper is very stimulating to digestion and helps the body absorb nutrients, but potentially aggravating to the pitta dosha and should be used sparingly by pittas. To make chai that is balancing to all three doshas, leave out the black pepper.
- Nutmeg is one of the best spices to calm the mind.
One trip to the bulk food store and you’ll be set for a whole winter’s worth of chai. You’ll need fresh ginger too. I keep it peeled, sliced and frozen – ready to use whenever I want to brew a pot of chai. Frozen ginger also comes in handy for lots of asian dishes.
I stock up on vanilla beans at Costco, but you could also add a small amount of vanilla extract after the chai is heated and you’ve poured it into your mug. I’ve tried making this chai without vanilla, thinking that I wouldn’t notice its absence in the midst of all that ginger and cinnamon, but it just wasn’t the same. I sweeten my chai with pure stevia (my favourite brand is Sweet Leaf) but you choose whatever twirls your ticket. Dr. Vasant Lad sweetens his chai recipe with Sucanat, dried sugarcane juice, which is easy to find here in health food stores.
After the chai has steeped for about 40 minutes, reheat it and pour yourself a cup. Or, if you like it really spicy, let it sit for another hour or two… or three. That’s what I do, but I’m not normal.
- 6 cups of water
- 3 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into thin coins
- 2 six inch cinnamon sticks
- 10 cardamon pods
- 16 black peppercorns (optional, especially for Pittas)
- 3 whole allspice berries
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon of freshly-grated nutmeg (optional)
- one half vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise (or pure vanilla extract added to the mug)
- 3 rooibos teabags
- Plant milk and sweetener to taste
- Add all the ingredients, except the tea bags and vanilla extract if you're using it, to the 6 cups of water and heat. Bring to a simmer, then cover it and turn it way down. Keep it at a very low simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and add the tea bags. Steep for at least 10 minutes. (I steep it for 2 or more hours.)
- Strain, reheat and add a splash of milk and your favourite sweetener. If you're using vanilla extract rather than a bean, add ¼ to ½ teaspoon of vanilla to your mug.
Inspired by The Bojon Gourmet and the Ayurvedic Institute.