One of Older Son’s Christmas gifts to me was a jumbo supply of organic Fair Trade chai from SerendipiTea of Manhasset, Long Island. Of the six chai blends SerendipiTea offers, he picked the perfect one. Cha Cha Chai has just enough black pepper to give it a hint of kick.
And then The Much Honoured The Lady of Reay came bearing a gift of Wystone’s Spicy Black Chai, a flavor involving anise seed. I don’t have much experience with anise seed but whatever it does in a salad, in chai it provides just enough sweetness that the tea needs no sweetener.
Chai is a bit fussy to make a cup at a time so I’ve been experimenting with scaling it up and making a concentrate. It smells wonderful simmering on the stove and my compost has never been classier. I’ve been putting the steeped leaves in the outdoor bin; I’m not sure how the worms in my indoor composter will take to cardamom and cloves, although they gobble up lapsang souchong and Earl Grey fast enough, teabags and all.
And locally, there’s always Rishi Masala chai.
The directions for the SerendipiTea variety suggest using a teaspoon of the tea blend to a half cup of water, but measuring out a teaspoonful of something that contains whole tea leaves and whole cardamom pods is tricky. Besides, I like it strong, especially before dawn.
Chai is traditionally served with an equal quantity of milk; I usually use vanilla soy milk, which gives the tea some body and enough sweetness to discourage me from reaching for a cookie when I’m having my afternoon cuppa. Usually I go for brewed tea in the morning, but I find I need all the incentive I can find to get through the dark and gloom of January.
And because the cheerful Christmas mugs are back in the basement and it’s much too early to bring out the mugs decorated with tulips and daffodils, I get to use this wonderful handmade–and hand-warming!–16-ounce mitten-handled cup, another good incentive to get out a warm bed before the furnace has kicked in.
© 2012 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go