There's something about the cooler months that seem to make spices smell more fragrant. At least to me. Here in Seattle the winter air is crisp and clean. While standing at a street corner waiting for the light to change I catch a whiff of the chai tea I cup in my cold hands. Cardamom, cinnamon, cloves all find their way up to tickle my nose with their sweet aroma. Mmmmm...
I was fortunate to recently be the recipient of a little baggie of chai tea spices made by the Indian mother of a friend of a friend. I wanted the recipe but because this woman was too many degrees away from me I didn't want to be a bother by asking. So I asked my friend Kailash, who also kindly told me how they brew it in India. Whether I can do it properly is another thing, but I certainly will try as I'm sure it's loads better than my mass-produced teabag version.
7 cups water
1 tbsp fennel seeds
6 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp loose leaf Orange Pekoe tea
6 plus tsp sugar
1 cup of milk (you may substitute soymilk)
With a mortar and pestle, slightly grind spices; just enough to pop them open to release their flavor and fragrance.
Add six teaspoons of sugar to the spices, combine with water and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, then bring to a boil again. Reduce heat once more, then simmer until the mixture becomes saffron colored.
Add tea leaves to the water and bring to a boil again. Lower and reduce twice as you did in the first step. Add milk and bring to a boil again.
Strain into cups and serve. Add more sugar to taste if necessary.
Makes about 8 cups.