A recent exploration in to the world of spices for me. From having a simple tea bag everyday, to discovering sticky chai at a cafe, to making my own blend!
I have chai every day with lunch. It has actually become an addiction for me. It’s a beautifully flavoured, yet surprisingly mainstream supermarket bought tea that I brew up - Madame Flavour’s Sultry Chai. It’s whole tea leaves in a convenient pyramid tea bag. The last sip has a whiff of spices in it and is the best part!
When I see chai on the menu at a hipster cafe, I usually jump at the opportunity to try it. It’s much better than take away chai lattes which are usually made from a powder with added sugar. Recently I found myself at West Juliett in Marrickville. I had the house blend chai on a lazy Sunday. It is roasted, blended and hand crushed by them. It did not disappoint.
I ended up buying a pack as I was leaving, which was a first for me. I was a bit confused when I opened it at home. It seemed crushed, and sticky. Some research reveals that this generally means that it has been infused with honey.
So far, the only chai I had been used to was dry loose leaf chai - black tea leaves with spices. All this chai research prompted me to make my own blend, of the non-sticky variety. I did realise that I knew very little about each of the spices in your average chai blend. Here goes my first attempt.
Ingredients, clockwise from the cinnamon at the top:
- whole cinnamon sticks (2 tbsp ground)
- whole nutmeg (1/2 tbsp ground)
- cloves (3 pieces, ground)
- cardamom pods (1 tbsp ground)
- coriander seeds (1/2 tbsp ground)
- black peppercorns (1/2 tbsp ground)
- star anise (2 pieces)
- ground ginger (2 tbsp)
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup water
- black tea (2 tbsp)
- Grind together all the spices with a mortar and pestle.
- Add only 1/2 teaspoon of the ground spice mix to a small saucepan. Also add the milk, water and tea, and bring to a slow simmer, stirring to infuse the flavours.
- Cover and remove from heat.
- Allow to steep for 2 minutes.
- Strain in to cups.
- Add honey to taste.
My findings? I think cardamom is the dominant spice in all the chai drinks I’ve had. Crushed star anise reminded me of liquorice. I am still getting my head around all the other spices, except cinnamon. I did learn that ground ginger is quite different to fresh ground ginger - it tastes a lot less like lemon and is not as overpowering as fresh ground ginger.
Variations include adding vanilla, allspice (this is one spice, which the name does not suggest!), mace (made from the seed covering of nutmeg), fennel seeds, safflower and even chocolate!