Saturday, September 8, 2012

My Spice Box for Making Chai

I am in love with spiced chai. It's the thing I most often order from coffee shops, though it's usually too sweet and not spicy enough for me. At Starbucks, I've learned that I need to order it with non-fat milk so the spices are not overpowered.

At home, it's been a comfort drink for a couple of years. I started with a recipe from Indian Cooking Made Easy by Jan Purser and Ajoy Joshi.  It was pretty good but wasn't exactly the taste I was looking for. After trying multiple recipes I found on the net, I've come up with my own combination of spices that taste just right for me. These spices are always on hand in my pantry so I can just throw some together whenever the urge arises. Unfortunately, that means there are a bunch of chai-specific spices piled up in the cabinet and I have to dig them all out whenever it's time to make another batch.

Aarti Sequeira (of the show "Aarti Party" on Food Network) introduced me to the idea of a masala dabba, which is basically a round tin container with several smaller tins inside of it for holding different spices. There is usually a tiny spoon included in the dabba that is about the measure of a "dash". These small tins are intended for powdered spices so they are nowhere near big enough to hold the whole spices I use for chai. So with a masala dabba in mind, I set off in search of something that would work for me.

At Home Goods, I found a really cute box that looks kind of like an old steamer trunk. It measures about 8"x8" and stands about 4" tall.

The top of the box reads: "Live life passionately, Laugh until your belly hurts, Love unconditionally"

Then, at Cost Plus World Market (my absolutely most favorite store), I found eight little glass canisters that stand about three inches tall and have the clasp to hold them closed. I filled them with my chai spices, hand-labeled them, and stuck them in the box. Imagine my surprise when I found that there was exactly enough room to put the box of tea in with them! I cannot tell you how excited I am about this whole project!!

Cyndie's Spiced Chai

2 quarts water
3 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon loose leaf black tea (or 10 tea bags)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3 or 4 slices of candied ginger
6 whole green cardamom pods, cracked
2 cinnamon sticks
8 to 10 whole cloves
about 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
5 or 6 peppercorns
4 whole star anise pods

Make a sachet from cheesecloth or a flour-sack type kitchen towel to hold tea and all of the spices.* Place sachet in a 2-quart container and fill with water. Allow to steep in the fridge for 12-18 hours before removing the sachet.

The tea will be quite strong, so you will likely want to dilute it with either water or milk. I use 1 Cup of liquid to 1 Cup of milk in a large tumbler full of ice.

Sweeten to your liking and enjoy!

*I recently bought a mesh ball tea diffuser that looks like it will work.

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