Desiring an extra special warm beverage for Thanksgiving morning breakfast, I chose to take the 20 minutes or so required to brew up some Chai. Many years ago an old friend and travel partner, Michael Kinney, shared with me a recipe from his time spent living in India he called Baba Chai. Though I have long lost the actual recipe there are elements of it that come to mind each time I make a Masala Chai.
My November 26th preparation adds nutmeg and orange zest to the final brew for a flavor and aroma that is fresh, exotic and comforting. It pairs well with typical breakfast and brunch foods or as stand alone beverage that is on par with hot cocoa when it comes to wintertime companions.
WINTER HOLIDAY CHAI
(makes 6 mug sized servings)
8 large slices of fresh ginger root
1 cinnamon bark stick
1 teaspoon of cardamom seed
2 whole cloves
2 allspice whole seeds
4 black pepper whole seeds
1 pinch of salt
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons loose leaf Assam black tea
2 cups of whole cow milk (or your preferred cow milk alternative)
2 tablespoons of honey
1.5 liters of water
Place the fresh ginger, cinnamon stick, cardamon seed, cloves, allspice, pepper and a pinch of salt with 1.5 liters of water in a stove pot and bring it to a gentle rolling boil for 15 minutes.
Note that you will need to strain the resulting extremely hot finished tea from this pot into another vessel for filling cup(s) from. If you are a fan of tea, like me, you may have two large teapots — one Turkish stove top stainless pot for boiling in and an English clay Brown Betty pot for serving. Before I owned these lovely pots though, I made do with two sauce pans and a mesh colander or some cheese cloth. Whatever works, works. Just take care not to burn yourself when straining the volume of hot brew!
In a second small pot heat the milk and honey, stirring occasionally, until visible steam rises steadily from the milk (just prior to boiling). Turn off the heat under the pot and cover it to keep it warm. You will mix the warm honey milk with the Chai per serving according to the drinker’s particular taste. If there are children present you should probably make extra honey milk as they will likely adore it without or just a smidgen of Chai added. Feel free to add more or less honey according to taste.
Once the spices have boiled for 15 minutes (a longer boil may make a spicier chai but bitterness may also develop), pull the pot off the heat. Immediately add the black tea leaves, the orange zest and the grated nutmeg, give a quick stir and cover the pot. Let the brew steep for 4 minutes and then strain it off all at once into your serving pot.
Fill a favorite mug a quarter to half way with the warm milk and then top off with the Chai. Leave a little room in the mug for adjusting the mix to your taste. If you like to simplify service for a group of folks, go ahead and mix all the milk into the tea, adjust the sweetness as necessary, and serve from a single pot.
I hope you find this Chai will help turn any moment of the day into a special occasion that delights, relaxes and invigorates!
Warm Holiday wishes to you!