(To all the coffee drinkers out there, stay with me!😀) When my teenagers took a liking to iced chai lattes from our neighborhood coffee shop a few years ago, I figured it was time to come up with an economical DIY version. While it may require a trip to the market in order to round up the spices, the actual recipe is really easy and may just rival your favorite cafe latte for a fraction of the price.
Some of the appeals of this recipe are that it can be enjoyed hot or cold and the level of sweetness can be adjusted to personal taste. Once made, the concentrate can be conveniently stored in the fridge and combined with your milk of choice for perfect chai lattes whenever the mood strikes.
I’ve always enjoyed both coffee and tea. I usually start my day with a cup of black coffee, but in the afternoon I crave something a bit more decadent. I like tea with sugar and milk, cafe mochas…anything creamy with a hint of sweetness. These lattes are like a satisfying snack that are actually rather healthy. The added honey is modest, the milk provides calcium, and all those warming spices are bursting with anti-oxidants. Cloves, ginger, and cinnamon are especially rich in this department.
The spices and tea bags are added to water for a quick simmer. It’s as easy at that!
Over the years, I’ve made gallons of this spiced concentrate, perfecting the flavors to the point where everyone actually prefers the homemade option. My kids friends have enjoyed it, too–one in particular says it tastes much like her mom’s special coquito, a traditional Puerto Rican drink that’s sweet, creamy, and delicious. Even coffee drinkers have embraced their inner tea drinker after taking a sip. If you try, I hope you enjoy as much!
If you’ve never had chai, either iced or hot, this recipe is a great reason to try. The concentrate is prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator for a cafe-worthy drink whenever the mood strikes. (I particularly love the iced version!)
You could add the zest of one orange for a hint of citrus flavor. Can be served iced or hot.
Yield: 5+ cups concentrate
- 14 green cardamom pods, gently crushed
- 12 whole black peppercorns
- 12 whole cloves
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger (level tablespoons and not a very fine mince)
- 6 cups water
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 3 star anise
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup honey or brown sugar (more or less to taste)
- 2 vanilla beans, sliced down the middle (or 2 teaspoons vanilla or vanilla bean paste)
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed (optional)
- 3 whole allspice (optional)
- 8 black tea bags (rooibos is an excellent decaffeinated option; darjeeling is a traditional option but your favorite black tea–I’ve used Lipton–will work well)
Place all of the ingredients except the tea bags in a large saucepan or pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the tea bags, remove the pot from the heat, and let steep, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, reserving the liquid for use as concentrate and discarding the spices. Cool the mixture to room temperature, and then cover and refrigerate. You may use right away, although the flavors develop upon resting overnight.
For serving, stir before pouring and then mix equal parts concentrate and milk of choice.* Gently heat for a hot latte; add ice for an iced latte. Mix equal parts concentrate and water for “regular” tea. Stored in a covered container in the refrigerator, the concentrate will keep for up to one week.
- *My favorite milk to use in this latte is a mix of almond and coconut milk. Silk offers this mix in a carton alongside their standard almond and soy milks. When using regular milk, I recommend 2% over nonfat for a creamier latte, although any option may absolutely be used.