Thursday, December 17, 2015

Homemade Chai Tea for Winter !

Winter is coming ! That means cold weather with warm hearty soups and stews, along with hot, comforting drinks, aromatic teas, and soothing coffees. The past couple of years, I have been buying  affordable Trader Joe's Chai teabags in boxes.  On my last visit there, they were out of this delicious tea. I also bought some luscious handmade loose chai tea that a man had made, and his wife was selling at the Hanukkah Bazaar at Temple Beth Israel in Fresno. Wow, the flavor was so intense, and I couldn't believe that it only took 1/2 teaspoon of the mixture to make one cup of tea ! Well, I took that little canister of tea to New York, when I visited my daughter Brittany and her new husband Jeff, recently,  and I left it there for them. Soooo,  not having any Chai tea and having been wanting to make my own chai tea, I decided now was my chance to give it a shot !
   I gathered the ingredients that I found in my kitchen,such as cinnamon sticks, black pepper corns, star anise, fresh ginger, cardamon, a small piece of a vanilla bean, a whole nutmeg, and ground them up in my little coffee grinder, then steeped 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of  the tea in a mug filled with hot water. I was amazed how EASY the whole process was ! It probably took about 5 minutes from start to finish ! I noticed at our local  Lassens Market that there are different flavors of Chai tea, so basically you can put whatever blend of spices in the grinder that you want , to make the particular tea that suits your fancy ! You can also add whole cloves, coriander seeds, and  fennel seeds to your mix. Oh, by the way....Did you know that Chai means tea ? So if you're making Chai tea, you're really making tea tea !

When I went out to buy the spices to make the tea, I looked in a couple of grocery stores. There, I was able to find what I needed, but at expensive prices. Then I went to a Mediterranean market in Fresno and was able to find most of these spices in bags and plastic containers. (Entering that market was like going to the other side of the world ! One  Persian customer was buying freeze-dried limes for I know not what , and roasted watermelon seeds covered in a pink powder ??  I bought pomegranate molasses for the first time to drizzle on roasted acorn squash !)  The quantities of the spices were larger and cheaper ! It may take a few trips around town to find what you need. Some recipes add black tea as well. I prefer not to add the extra caffeine, so I leave it out. You can add loose tea or a tea bag when you are steeping your tea, if you want.

My Version of Chai Tea

1/2  teaspoon whole pepper corns
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon cardamom pods
1/2 inch fresh ginger
2 star anise or
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/4 vanilla seed

Grind all the ingredients  in your coffee bean grinder. Leave them in the covered grinder or put them in an air tight container. (A pinch of these spices might taste good in your coffee another day, or in a citrus salad dressing, or in applesauce ! ) Put 1/2  teaspoon of the mixture in a teacup. Add 6-8 ounces of boiling water. Cover your cup and let it steep for 3-5 minutes. I heat about 1/4-1/3 cup of milk or 1/2 and 1/2 in a metal measuring cup on the stove. Watch it carefully ! Add the hot milk to the tea, plus a teaspoon of honey, or a little more ,if desired. If the tea isn't strong enough for you, add a little more of the tea mixture to your cup.
                                   Then I take my tea outside ,if it's warm enough, watch my cats enjoying the sun rays, gaze around the tranquility of my flowers and trees in my garden, watching a new morning  unfolding, and thank G-d for another day of life !
   P.S....This tea, placed in small zip-lock bags,  then put in decorative bags, and tied with ribbon or raffia, would make nice gifts !
   P.P.S....Freeze-dried limes add authentic lime flavor to cuisines including Middle Eastern, Mexican, Thai, and Indian foods. The watermelon seeds are dried, salted, and offered to guests in Persian homes. There are such new, exciting, things to learn when entering into a different cultures' market and going up and down the isles, studying all the foods one has never seen before ! Ask questions about certain foods are used ! Your world will expand and grow !!