One of my favorite parts of the cold fall and winter months is the chance to indulge in a variety of hot drinks. Hot cocoa, spiced cider, mocha lattes; I love them all. Chai tea is a different story. I’ve never been a fan of the chai drinks at coffee houses because they are usually overpowered by too much clove for my taste. And the few varieties of bagged “chai spiced tea” I’ve tried were underwhelming.
But Big Man really likes chai and I try to keep his favorite drinks on hand. I enjoy making him a hot drink when he gets home from work or when we are cuddled up watching a movie. It’s a small thing, yes, but I think love thrives on the day-to-day “small things” as much as the romantic special occasions.
I found this recipe for homemade chai concentrate through Pinterest and I’m so glad I did. I love having the concentrate on hand so all I have to do to make a great cup of chai is add some milk and heat it up. Even better, this is a chai drink that even I like! No overpowering clove, just a nice blend of spices over a sweet and creamy background. I pretty much keep this in the fridge all the time now so we can have chai whevener we want.
I modified the original recipe slightly to suit our tastes and make it a little more affordable to keep as a staple. I also doubled the recipe because we drink a lot of chai! Don’t be afraid of all the whole spices used, if you can get spices in bulk (I like to order from Penzey’s and Amazon*) it’s really not that expensive. I hope you’ll try this out and enjoy a great, homemade hot chai without needing to go to the coffeehouse.
*I am not affliated with Penzey’s or Amazon.
Homemade Chai Concentrate (adapted slightly from Tasty Yummies)
(makes 2 quarts of concentrate)3/4 cup granulated sugar 1 orange 1 or 2 whole vanilla beans 4 whole cinnamon sticks 18 to 20 whole cloves 16 whole cardamom pods 4 whole star anise pods 3/4 teaspoon whole peppercorns 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1 teaspoon ground ginger 9 cups water 16 tea bags (I used Lipton Black Tea) 1 to 2 Tablespoons honey
Step 1: Place the sugar into a bowl. Split the vanilla bean(s) lengthwise with a sharp knife and use the edge of the knife to scrape out the insides. Reserve the empty pods and add the vanilla beans to the sugar. Zest the orange, creating wide strips of peel and add the zest to the sugar. Use your fingers to blend the sugar, vanilla, and orange zest, rubbing the zest with the sugar to release the oils. Prepare the tea bags by tying all the strings together. Gently crack a few of the peppercorns with the back of a spoon.
Step 2: Heat the water in a large pot over medium-high heat until boiling. Add the tea bags, orange-vanilla sugar, vanilla pods, and all the remaining spices. Whisk gently to make sure the ginger are nutmeg and well incorporated. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Step 3: Remove from heat and pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl. Whisk in the honey and let cool. Store in the refrigerator (will keep about 10 days).
Step 4: To serve the chai, mix equal parts concentrate and milk (or half-and-half if you are feeling decadent) and heat over medium heat or in the microwave. Enjoy!