chai for two, & two for chai
We read the other day that locally-based Tazo Teas will be pulling up stakes and leaving Portland for a colder and damper clime. (I know, you thought that not possible. Portland gets such a bad rap.) We’ll still be able to buy their teas of course, but we’ll be sorry to see them go. Having Tazo in our backyard is a bit like a blanket thrown over the back of the couch, or a delicious book on the nightstand – a bit of a comfort – there, should you need it. The building that houses Tazo is striking in its simplicity, spare in its details, but rich, warm and inviting. Is there something subliminal in its design that makes one suddenly crave a steaming fragrant cup of tea? Wait here, I’ve got just the ticket!
I’m not claiming to be an expert, not by any stretch, but I did learn from one. My friend Amit from Delhi taught me how chai was made in their kitchen back home and I’ve been making it in ours ever since. It’s very simple to do and I predict you’ll never go back to those cartons of chai after tasting this one. Take ten minutes of your time before you sit down to address your holiday cards, or wrap your gifts, or pay your bills. If your attitude is running a bit sour, you might try chai. A hug around your heart, held in a steamy pot. (I know. Ridiculous you say. But only because you haven’t tried it yet.)
For those who’ve never enjoyed the treat that chai is – imagine steaming milk (cow’s milk, soy, rice, coconut – whatever your preference) – into it fragrant cardamom, allspice, freshly ground pepper and grated fresh ginger root – allow it all to steep so that the milk itself is imbued with all the fragrance and warmth these spices impart – then the tea (black or green or a combination of the two) for the last 3 minutes. Strain and serve. Warm your hands, warm your soul.
(And though I’ve strongly advocated for your chai to be served steaming hot, I can tell you that over ice in the summer, it’s refreshingly delicious and wonderful!)
Chai for Two
- 2 cups milk (I’ll use any milk, but for chai I think soy might be my personal favorite.)
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root (see NOTE)
- sugar to taste (see NOTE)
- 2 teaspoons tea (see NOTE)
Into a medium saucepan, over low heat measure the milk of your choice and water. Add allspice, cardamom, freshly-ground pepper. Grate the ginger, measure and add. Bring the pot slowly to just steaming, stirring frequently. (Don’t allow soy, rice or coconut milk to boil as it will separate which is never pretty.) Turn heat to lowest setting or turn off entirely. Spill the tea(s) over the steaming milk. Stir once then leave undisturbed for 3 minutes. (After 3 minutes, the bitterness of the tea leaf begins to leach into your brew.)
Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the chai of its solids.
This will cool it off some, so return to the pot and gently rewarm. (Again, careful not to boil.)
~ ~ ~
Serve steaming. Or chill, and serve over ice.
See below for NOTES on Ginger, Sugar and Tea.
NOTE on Ginger: I’m pretty wild about ginger. If you are too, try 1 Tablespoon. If you’re not wild for the spicy warmth of ginger, go with 2 teaspoons. (You can always dilute the chai with additional water or milk if the flavors are a bit strong for you.) If using organic ginger root, no need to peel first, just grate.
NOTE on Sugar: general rule of thumb is about 2 or 3 teaspoons per cup. That’s much sweeter than I like most any drink, but paired with the spicy ginger and pepper, it’s just right. Amit taught me to make chai with turbinado sugar. I think you can use the sweetener of your choice (including honey or maple syrup) but I’d shy away from an artificial sweetener.
NOTE on Tea: Amit recommends a British-style tea and says that Lipton, Tetley or Red Rose are good. Or do what he (and now I) do, and add half green tea to the mix. Tazo offers some nice choices of green.