Aside from the odd book or kitchen do-dad here and there, I am a homemade gifts kinda girl to the hilt. I have everything I need in life, but some lovely homemade granola? Or preserves and rustic pickles from your garden perhaps? A pair of chunky-knit mittens with a home-screened tea towel? All of those kinds of things warm my heart and make me feel pretty alright with the world. You know what else does? A big, hot cup of dreamy-spicy chai on cold and bright winter mornings in Ontario.
So in the spirit of the season and wanting to share those warm and lovely feelings with some friends, I made up a batch of really simple chai concentrate. The flavour is leaps and bounds away in deliciousness from the stuff you can buy at coffee shops (which costs more money than anyone should ever have to pay for tea, sugar and spices). Plus! You can mix it with whiskey if you fancy a spicy little hot toddy on a brisk evening. How many coffee shops can do that?
I will definitely recommend that you use some loose leaf tea from a local purveyor of fine quality for this. The taste will always be better because there’s a greater quantity of actual whole leaves (not dusty, icky leftovers) and the freshness can’t be beat. I love to use assam tea here. It’s a variety of black tea from India that has a typically rich and malty flavour profile that stands up to the spices and tangy citrus flavours quite well. A particularly good variety from my favourite teashop ever can be ordered here.
Happy sipping and warmest holiday wishes,
spicy chai concentrate with an orange twist
serves: makes about 2 litres or 16 one cup servings once mixed
notes: Try to remove most of the white pith from the orange peel to avoid bitterness. Also, this isn’t limited to beverages! A little dab with some steel cut oatmeal would be delicious.
9 cups filtered water
1 orange, peel removed in large strips (save the fruit for a snack)
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cinnamon sticks (the big ones)
3 star anise
5 whole cloves
10 green cardamom pods
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
a few twists of black pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp black loose leaf tea (try rooibos for a caffeine-free version)
2/3 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Once boiling, turn off the heat and add orange peel strips, ginger, spices and tea leaves. Steep this mixture for 10 to 15 minutes depending on how strong you want it.
Strain the steeped tea into a large bowl or pitcher. Stir in the maple syrup and vanilla extract. Allow the concentrate to cool completely before pouring into clean mason jars/other container of your choosing.
When heating with non alcoholic liquids, use concentrate in a 1:1 ratio (ie with hot milk, cider, other juice etc). Using booze? Totally your call!