My oh my, I love chai! Subtly sweet and full of warming spices, it always hits the spot, especially on cold winter days. Originating in South Asia, masala chai has become a household favorite in the U.S. and across the globe. I load my rendition of chai with traditional spices, including cardamom, peppercorn, cinnamon, ginger, plus a pinch of fennel seeds and optional nutmeg. The spices are simmered to perfection in water and black tea, then blended with milk, vanilla and honey for heavenly sipping. Because this specialty beverage is more involved than steeping tea from a tea bag, I prefer to make a big batch upfront to stash in the fridge. Then, when a craving strikes, I simply pour some in a mug and heat it up in the microwave. Feel free to use whatever milk or sweetener you prefer — and you can customize each spice to your preference, but this recipe offers a solid starting point.
4 cups water
16 cardamom pods
10 whole cloves
8 white peppercorns (may swap in black if you can’t find white)
4-5 (1-inch) slices fresh ginger root (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger powder)
4-5 cinnamon sticks (or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
pinch fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
4 black tea bags
3-4 cups 2% reduced-fat milk (or any milk of choice)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey
Add the water, cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, ginger, cinnamon, fennel seeds, nutmeg, if using, into a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it boils, lower the heat and cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add tea bags and steep for 5 minutes (longer if you prefer a strong tea flavor). Remove tea bags and discard. Add milk, vanilla and honey to the pan. Increase heat to medium and continue to simmer and stir until it's gently bubbling and heated throughout.
Strain liquid and pour into mugs. Stash leftover tea in the fridge. Pour into mugs and warm in microwave whenever you’re in the mood for some chai.