All mornings are perfect for homemade chai, but some particularly so.
Take this morning: a clear sky, the first hard frost crystallizing the fields, and the warmth of the wood stove against the crispness of a November day.
Even if it’s not the weekend, making chai gives me permission to stretch the morning out, to move with the sunrise and not the speed of the second hand.
I wish I could give you a recipe for chai, but I can’t. I’m not that precise, and anyway I usually stray from recipes myself. So I’ll give you what I call “recipe improv” instead: the ingredients, the method, the invitation to try it yourself.
- Black tea ~ Our current tea of choice is CTC Assam. Orange Pekoe, Ceylon, or English Breakfast also work. Try them all, do taste tests, and know that your chai will taste different with each type of tea.
- Milk ~ Milk matters. Whole milk will give you the richest chai. If you’re not after richness, or if you’re scared of fat and only drink skim, skip chai completely and just boil some water. The best milk to use is local raw milk, which will always be fresher than store-bought pasteurized milk, and in our experience has the best flavor.
- *Since going on an anti-inflammatory diet as part of my lyme protocol, I’ve experimented with different milk alternatives. Coconut milk offers the best substitute when it comes to the fat factor. Soy milk is my second choice.
- Sweetener ~ maple syrup or honey.
- Optional: cloves, fennel seed, orange peel, ginger, black pepper, salt
Fill a small or medium pot halfway with water, add a few cardamon pods (and any other optional spices you’d like), and bring to a boil. Depending on the number of cups we’re making, we add anywhere between 2-5 pods.
When the water is at a boil, add one teaspoon of tea per mug of water, and let steep for 3-5 minutes.
Turn heat down to a simmer and add enough milk to double the volume (or until the tea is a nice creamy golden color), then add sweetener. If you over-sweeten the chai, it can turn into a dessert rather than a breakfast drink, so go slow. You can always add more sweetener to your cup at the end.
Let the chai simmer until the milk froths up, then turn off the heat.
Pour chai through a strainer and into your mug. If you like salt, sprinkle the smallest amount in now.
Drink! Smile. Exhale. Repeat.
Our chai changes with the seasons and what ingredients we have on hand. Be playful, know that some cups will be better than others, and keep on going until you find your favorite mix of ingredients.
At some point you may find, as we have, that the process itself becomes a meditation, almost as centering and enjoyable as that first sip itself.