Autumn is officially here, and I’m always looking for ways to warm up. Well, I was in luck when my friend, Rachel, told me that she’d be making a homemade chai latte. I haven’t posted a recipe in a while because I’ve been doing a lot more traveling and a lot less cooking, so I was thrilled when Rachel offered up her recipe. Now, I’m looking forward to making a homemade chai latte sometime soon.
I don’t care for the chai tea lattes from the typical coffee shop or drive thru, but I love chai when I go out to Indian restaurants. This drove me to buy the necessary ingredients and to try to make it at home. I’ve done it several times now – and I’m including the tips I’ve learned from experimenting along the way. Basically, if you’re a cooking noob like me, to get a better feel for what you will be doing making a chai latte- try to imagine you’re making something like spiced apple cider, or milk tea. Because really, what you are essentially doing is making spiced water, using that to make tea, then adding sugar and milk. Let’s get started with what you’ll need to have to make your own chai latte!
Ingredient & supply list:
Milk (Tip: use 2% and/or add some whole milk if you use dairy milk. I’ve also tried hemp milk and it’s ok but separates quickly and adds a nutty (hemp milk) taste).
Sugar (Tip: You could use honey or another sugar substitute).
Cardamom pods / cardamom spice
Cinnamon sticks/ cinnamon spice
Fresh ginger / ginger spice
Whole black peppercorns
Let me point out here that you can adjust the blend of spices to suit your own taste. Let me explain how the spices act in the tea so you can have a good idea how to make it the way you like it the first time.
Cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom are the “base” of the flavor. Cloves and cinnamon is a typical taste for fall – imagine apple cider- but cardamom is the one which gives chai its distinct taste. Don’t skimp on cinnamon, cloves, or cardamom. I use whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, a little ground cinnamon, a few cardamom pods, and a little ground cardamom. Why the whole and ground spices? It gives a nice layer of flavor and texture to the tea when you don’t strain out the ground spices. Another main flavor in the chai is its spiciness, which comes from the ginger and black pepper. If you don’t like that “spicy” taste, use less ginger (you can skip the fresh ginger altogether) and use less black peppercorns. Two more spices are important to adjust to your taste preference as well. Star anise has a ‘licorice’ taste, so if you do not care for that – use only one. Nutmeg is also something not everyone enjoys. Err on the side of less nutmeg until you try the tea and think you want more.
Pour about 2 cups of filtered water into your pot and add the spices. I added 2 fresh ginger and a ~¼ teaspoon of ground ginger, 2 cinnamon sticks and ~½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, about 8 peppercorns, about 8 cardamom pods and ~½ teaspoon of ground cardamom, about 8 whole cloves, ~¼ teaspoon of nutmeg, and 2 star anise. Simmer until your kitchen smells amazing and the cinnamon sticks “open” – at least 15 mins.
Tip: if you plan to simmer it longer, add water so the spices you don’t simmer off all the water.
Add tea. Use the tea in proportion to the amount of milk / people you are serving. For example if I’m adding 2-3 cups milk – add at least 3 tea bags or 3 teaspoons of loose leaf tea (if you prefer stronger tea- add more). Boil as if you were making tea – about 1-2 mins) then turn down to simmer while you do the next step.
Tip: Constant Comment or an Orange Pekoe tea gives it an extra layer of flavor.
Add sugar or your sugar substitute. Again, add in proportion to the amount of milk/people you are serving. Generally about 1-2 teaspoons per serving. Err on the side of less sugar as you can easily add it after serving.
Tip: the taste of the tea changes quite a bit before adding any sugar and after adding sugar, so don’t worry if you taste it with no sugar and hate it. Add sugar gradually and taste again.
Add milk in proportion to the amount of servings you are making. Add milk until the tea becomes a good color – not too diluted but not too strong. Taste test if needed.
Tip: Whole milk is thicker and sweeter than even 2% so try different milks to get the consistency and taste you enjoy.
Reheat the pot. I like to go for a steamed milk rise in the pot than remove from the heat. Strain and serve. Using a mesh strainer will get out the loose tea and whole spices and leave the ground spices. You can use a finer strainer (cheese cloth) if you don’t like having the ground spices in your tea. Serve hot or let it cool and serve iced. Adjust sugar to taste.
Tip: You can refrigerate it overnight to have an iced chai latte with or without ice the next day.
Enjoy this taste (and smell) of autumn at home or on the go!
About the author: Rachel enjoys experimenting in the kitchen with tastes from around the world. She lives for travel and has studied abroad in Japan and South Korea. You can connect with Rachel on Twitter at @RachelTheRamblr and you can follow her travels on Ramblr.