I’m not usually a fan of hot beverages. I don’t drink coffee, I prefer my apple cider cold, and I would rather my wine not mulled. But there’s one hot drink I’ll indulge in when lower temperatures hit. I love spicy, milky Indian chai—but I don’t love shelling out the money for it.
Fortunately, it’s easy and much less expensive to make your own chai. If the flavors taste familiar, it’s because you likely already have them—ground ginger, cinnamon, pepper, cardamom and nutmeg—in your cabinet. The difficulty is finding the right balance of warmth and spice. I like my chai with considerable amounts of each, so I go heavy on the spices, especially the pepper. (If you don’t like your tea with a throat-catching bite, dial down the pepper a bit.) Whether or not you like your tea on the spicy side, the warm spices will take the chill out of fall and leave a few bucks in your pocket.
Homemade Chai Tea
2 bags black tea
1½ tablespoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon finely ground pepper
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1½ cups milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1. In medium saucepan, bring 1½ cups water to boil. Remove from heat, add tea bags and let steep for 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder to finely grind ginger, cinnamon, pepper, cardamom and cloves. Transfer ground spices to small bowl and set aside.
3. Remove tea bags from water. Add milk and bring to simmer. Whisk in sugar until dissolved. Add 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon spice mixture to water/milk mixture. Remove from heat and let steep for 5 minutes. Add more spice mixture to taste. (There will be extra spice mixture.)
4. Place fine-mesh strainer in medium bowl. Line strainer with cheesecloth or paper coffee filter and pour chai into strainer. (If you don’t have either cheesecloth or a filter, you can omit them; your chai may have remnants of spice mixture in it, but the flavor will be the same.) Ladle 1½ cup portions of strained chai into two mugs and serve.