Welcome October! Crisp cool mornings, beautiful sunshine filled afternoons, pumpkins, falling leaves and hot tea - what's not to love? We have officially entered that season where the mornings are cold but I refuse to turn the heat on yet. That will change this weekend I'm sure since the forecast says it will be 37 Saturday night. Brrrr. The perfect mid-morning antidote to freezing fingers and cold insides is fresh chai. It takes a little work but it's sooooo worth it! When I was a kid and we lived in Nepal, chai or chea as they say, was a daily staple. Without fail when 10 AM rolled around we all took a tea break. If you spent time bargaining in a store, the shopkeeper would order tea to drink together. One time I went with my Dad to buy auto parts in a warehouse where we were served "special" chai (it had coffee in it) in porcelain demitasse cups! My favorite though, was the kind you'd buy in little tea shops while traveling - that's where my secret ingredient comes from. Anyway, on to the recipe!
For this recipe you will need: loose black tea or tea bags (mine is from the Indian grocery but I've used both), milk, water, fresh ginger, whole cardamom, and sugar. You want to have equal parts milk and water, so put two mugs of each into your saucepan. Add about 2-2.5 soup spoons (or tablespoons) of tea or 3 strong black tea bags.
Turn the burner on to medium heat and cut off about an inch of fresh ginger. Slice it into quarters, peel it, chop it up and throw it in. Next add about 1/3 of a cup of raw sugar. Too much sweet takes away from the spiciness, so this amount keeps a good balance.
Take a big pinch of whole cardamom and grind it a few times to let the spicy goodness out. Before you toss it in the pan take a deep breath of that earthy aroma!
Stir it up and let it simmer for about 10 minutes or so.
About this time I get tired of waiting and turn up the heat. To be a good authentic chai it needs to boil. Important point here - do NOT walk away unless you want to scrub the heck out of your burners. When it boils it will go right over the sides before you can catch it unless you're standing right at the stove! When it starts boiling turn it off and strain it into your favorite mug.
Yum! The fragrant smell of fresh spices is wafting through the house now, my hands are already feeling warmer and my favorite reading chair is calling my name. In all fairness my lovely reading nook, while drenched in toasty morning sunshine, will only be seeing my backside as I walk by on my way to do the dishes. Still, knowing it's there for me makes me smile!
And now it's time for my favorite "secret" ingredient. Black pepper. Yep, you may have seen it in tea before or it may be new. It certainly does wonders for all those little colds that drop by during this season. My memories of this special ingredient come from numerous trips on the night bus. That would be a 21 hour bus ride across the country. Usually the driver would stop for dinner around 11 PM and the chai would always be heavily laced with black pepper to help them stay awake while they drove.
Shake some pepper onto your tea and take a big sip. Beautiful. The flavors meld together perfectly! Enjoy your tea, savor it as it warms you inside and hopefully a little outside as well. Bring your tea to a boil each time you warm it up. If you have some left over for tomorrow the flavors will be even better! For those of you who like to change things up, whole fennel can also be substituted for the cardamom with excellent results!
Whip some tea up and impress your friends next time you have company! As some bonus inspiration I have rounded up a quartet of gorgeous handmade mugs below. Any one of these would be a splendid addition to your tea routine! Or give you a reason to start one perhaps...
1) The cheeky Mr. Darcy proposal mug by Brookish 2) A stunning jet black mobious inspired mug by ENDEdesign 3) The alluring Snow Leopard mug by GrayDecember 4) Take your tea with you in style in an intricately painted ceramic travel mug by yevgenia
I'd love to see your tea inspiration! You can find me on twitter, instagram and pinterest @erinbphoto. Tag me in your tea posts! Until next time.