Two Years Ago: Italian Sausage and Wild Mushroom Risotto
I think of Chai tea as the tea for people who don't really like tea all that much, me included. Tea has always seemed like the sissy cousin of good strong coffee to me, but Chai tea - hot, creamy, sweet and rich with spices - is the the ultimate comfort drink. What's not to like? Well, maybe the price at Starbucks or the 200+ calories. That's why I like this mix. Unlike a lot of Chai tea mixes out there, it doesn't contain sugar or milk powder. Each person can make it as strong, or sweet, or creamy as they like. If you make it with Truvia sweetener and non-dairy creamer, it's very delicious and exactly 10 calories. Sounds better, right? Or if you have a sore throat, add some honey instead of Truvia - it's viscosity feels very soothing as it slides down. And the tea makes a great little gift also.
I had a slight challenge with the original recipe because it was a little vague here and there, particularly regarding the amount of tea that's required. The recipe called for 2 dry measuring cups of tea leaves, but loose tea is usually sold in 50 or 100 gram increments. I discovered that 150 grams yields about 2 1/2 dry cups, so if you can buy tea in 50 gram increments buy 150 grams, and if you need to buy in 100 gram increments buy 200 grams. Hopefully that makes sense. Every city has at least a couple of tea stores that sell loose tea, or it's easy to find online.
Make sure your spices are fresh and good quality - I always recommend Penzeys for the best selection, quality and price. Buy some cute jars, write up a nice card with the instructions, and you're good to go.
Hand Blended Loose Leaf Chai Tea
48 whole star anise or cardamom pods (or both)
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons whole cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
1 ounce (½ of a 2 oz jar) crystallized ginger, minced
2 cups loose leaf Darjeeling tea (about 125 grams)
Preheat oven to 350d.
Break star anise or cardamom pods in half (easiest done in a mortar and pestle) and break the cinnamon sticks into smaller pieces by pounding in a zip top bag.
Place the star anise (or cardamom) and cinnamon on a small rimmed baking sheet with the peppercorns, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and cloves, then put the spices in the oven for about 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Remove and cool, then grind the spices in several batches in a spice grinder into relatively small pieces but not into a powder.
In a large bowl, combine the tea, ginger, and spices, mixing well with your hands until ingredients are evenly blended.
Bring one cup of water to a boil then pour over one tablespoon of Chai Tea. Allow to steep for five minutes, strain, then add milk (vanilla soy or almond milk would be good) and sweetener (honey, sugar or artificial sweetener) to taste.