There are times when a simple scent can take you back to a different time and place, remove the haste and worry of the moment and surround you in comfort. I wish you were in my kitchen this very moment to fully understand what I am describing. I am making fresh Chai.
I didn’t think I was a chai fan, to be honest. The combination of spices and tea seemed too heavy for me. I like the simplicity of robust coffee or black breakfast tea with just a hint of cream, but today was a game-changer.
You know the feeling when you have something that suits you so perfectly that you are completely comfortable with it but then something else comes along and makes you pause and question, “What did I see in that?”
Move over pumpkin spice. I’m not going to say I’m done with you, but I’m not rushing to the drive-through!
The scent of my kitchen is filled with cinnamon, anise, ginger and cardamom, steeping milk, black tea and vanilla.
Into that I have added just a hint of cayenne. Don’t worry, it’s just enough to give you a note of wonder and warmth, but not enough to recognize.
Maybe the reason I’ve never developed a taste for chai is that I’ve only ever ordered it in coffee shops where it’s prepared with a prepackaged mix that, to me, usually tastes dusty and stale. Maybe the reason I’m so enjoying this flavor profile is because today I’m making chai with fresh, whole spices. You can certainly buy chai teabags or chai mix, but I can’t recommend strongly enough investing in a collection of fresh spices and steeping in your own black tea with your favorite milk. This is equally as delicious made with nut milk.
Today is one of those autumn days where it is cool enough for the warmth of these spices yet warm enough to still justify ice cream, so I’m making Chai Milkshakes.
I’m using vanilla ice cream but I’ve also tried it with coffee ice cream, which was also delicious. Sorry tea drinkers, I did feel a little guilty mixing tea and coffee flavors together, but it was really good.
I haven’t yet experimented, but because I like rye whiskey’s spicy undertones, I’m assuming a bit of bourbon mixed with chai just might be delicious. After all, great teabags steeped in simple syrup make a wonderful addition to a classic old fashioned. I might have to do some testing… stay tuned!
By the way, did you know that chai simply means tea? So, if you go into your favorite barista and order chai tea you’re really ordering “tea tea.”
- 1 1/2 cup milk (or almond milk)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 black chai tea bags
- 2 4-inch cinnamon stick
- 2 star anise
- 10 pieces of whole cardamom
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 pint (2 cups) vanilla ice cream
- Ground cinnamon sugar for topping (equal parts raw sugar and cinnamon)
- Whipped cream (optional)
- Pour milk into a small saucepan set over medium heat. Stir in ginger and cayenne. Add the tea bags, cinnamon stick, star anise and cardamom. Dunk the tea bags to submerge. Tip: Remove paper tabs from tea bags. Heat, stirring occasionally, until steaming and just below a simmer, about 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags. Stir in vanilla extract. Let cool to room temperature. With a slotted spoon, remove whole spices.
- Add ice cream to the pitcher of a blender and pour some chai milk mixture over the top. Blend until smooth add more milk as necessary for desired thickness. Pour into a large glass and top with whipped cream if desired. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Serve.