Essential Chai

Chai is one of my favourite drinks – in winter probably my favourite warming beverage. Now I make my own mix. Here’s why and how!

I’m not a coffee drinker but I love the smell. Tea is ok, herbals are better but chai – it’s in a class of its own.

I’ve bought probably close to 20 different types of chai. One of my favourite is Love Chai which I have bought at the markets around Byron. But I’m not at the markets often and most of the others mixes don’t put enough spices in – spices are expensive. After so many times I have given up buying pre mixed chai and make my own.

My homemade red rooibos chai - sooooo fragrant.

My homemade red rooibos chai – sooooo fragrant.

For chai there are several ingredients you can use. The most common for a little more than a basic chai are:

Cinnamon bark, cardamon pods, dried ginger, whole black pepper corn, fennel seeds, star anise pods, nutmeg nuts and whole cloves.

You can add all sorts of other spices but these are the ones I stick to if I have them.

Centre - nutmeg. Dividers - Cinnamon bark. Then clockwise from green pods top left: Cardamon pods, whole black pepper corns, fennel seeds, star anise and dried ginger root.

Centre – nutmeg. Dividers – Cinnamon bark. Then clockwise from green pods top left: Cardamon pods, whole black pepper corns, fennel seeds, star anise and dried ginger root.    Missing from photo – the delicious fragrances!!

To me the most important spices are the cinnamon and cardamon. I love both these spices so tend to put more of these in because that is my personal preference.

The ginger and black pepper are quite stimulating – they really get your circulating going so great for cold morning but not if you want to sit and be soothing.

I live so far from shops that if I don’t have one of the ingredients I don’t use it – for example, yesterday when I made my new batch I didn’t have whole cloves and I resist using ground spices. The flavours seem more wholesome and rich from the freshly crushed spices.

There is also the choice of on what base to make it. For example, black tea, green tea, white tea or rooibos.Here I have made mixes of black loose leaf tea and red rooibos.

Rooibos is in fact not a tea but a herb. However, it is most commonly called “rooibos tea” not “rooibos herbal infusion”!!

Seemingly rooibos has lots of health benefit including ( taken from this organic health facts site): “Used as a cure for nagging headaches, insomnia, asthma, eczema, bone weakness, hypertension, allergies, and premature aging. The tea is absolutely free from caffeine content and is also low in tannins.”.

I like the premature aging bit – any food with antigravity properties is good!! I could do with a natural facelift!!

For me rooibos is not as strong as tea. A softer, more mellow flavour. My favourite tea with my daughter is red rooibos with lavender!

Loose black tea leaves on the left and red rooibos on the right.

Loose black tea leaves on the left and red rooibos on the right. Aren’t these colours just fabulous.

I don’t have a recipe – I use bucket chemistry mixed with trial and error over time and how I’m feeling on the day. I gather all the spices in their jars and packets and begin. Above you can see the spices I used and here’s what I do to blend them.

One really sad fact about this post is I can not include the fragrances. Making this tea is just an orgasmic olfactory experience. You nose and smelling buds are constantly bombarded by heaven!! It’s part of the reason I love making this.

The dried ginger is already in small pieces so I don’t do anything with it.

All the other spices I make smaller by using my pestle and mortar my son gave me. I don’t use an electric chopper as, for me, this takes away from the experience. I enjoy the manual creation, plus I don’t want the particles to get too small. Using an electric machine usually cuts the spice into powder before you know it!! I like chunkier pieces.

The black pepper corns and fennel seeds I smash just to break the shell to release the scents so I can get high – oh, I mean to make them so they will release their flavours more easily. The fennel seeds are a bit difficult so I give them a pound until they stop splitting. Most is enough.

Whole black pepper corns

Whole black pepper corns before pounding

Lightly crush the pepper corns - not grind them to a powder.

Lightly crush the pepper corns – not grind them to a powder.

Crush the fennel seeds too.

Crush the fennel seeds too.

Next I break the cinnamon bark into small pieces. Sometimes I use my hands, sometimes the pestle. It depends on how thick and hard the bark is.

The star anise I pound into much smaller pieces. I put less of it in as it is quite aromatic so make it smaller to distribute it through out the mix.

Similarly, I pound the cardamon pods – trying to break the tiny black seeds inside the pods to release the wonderfulness which is encapsulated inside. The green outside casings are easy to split. The small seeds not so easy but I crush what I can without doing them all.

And I grate the nutmeg – here it is a little small for my liking but I don’t have a more appropriate grater. Grating nutmeg is such a nice experience. Although nutmeg looks like a hard nut, when you start to grate it you quickly sense just how soft it is. Grating nutmeg is very sensual. I remember when I was in Tanzania a couple of years ago and I SAW nutmeg growing on a tree. It was so exciting! Actually seeing a plant which produces nutmeg.

I break the cinnamon into smaller pieces but not tiny. Being a little bigger it gives the mixture a nice looks with chunky pieces.

I break the cinnamon into smaller pieces but not tiny. Being a little bigger it gives the mixture a nice looks with chunky pieces.

Star anise - on the left a whole one - they are so pretty - lovely form. On the right some of the beautiful shiny seeds which need to be crushed. I pound this into quite small pieces. Star anise is relatively brittle so shatters easily.

Star anise – on the left a whole one – they are so pretty – lovely form. On the right some of the beautiful shiny seeds which need to be crushed. I pound this into quite small pieces. Star anise is relatively brittle so shatters easily.

Mmmmm...... my favourite - cardamon. As you read this inhale the divine pungent aroma!! On the left are broken pods, on the right unbroken pods and in the middle you can see the tiny black seeds which I try to crush.

Mmmmm…… my favourite – cardamon. As you read this inhale the divine pungent aroma!! On the left are broken pods, on the right unbroken pods and in the middle you can see the tiny black seeds which I try to crush.

Grating the nutmeg - check out the gorgeous pattern inside the nutmeg as you grate it. Such an artistic experience!!

Grating the nutmeg – check out the gorgeous pattern inside the nutmeg as you grate it. Such an artistic experience!!

A sample of the crushed spices. Note in top right hand corner the crushed cardamon seeds. Top right is a mix of pepper and fennel. Bottom right the ginger. Bottom middle is the star anise and top and right divider is the cinnamon.

A sample of the crushed spices together. Note in top right hand corner the crushed cardamon seeds. Top right is a mix of pepper and fennel. Bottom right the ginger. Bottom middle is the star anise and top and right divider is the cinnamon.

I blend all the spices together with my hands. This takes ages….. because I just can’t stop stirring the lovely colours together and I never want to stop smelling the tantalising aromas as the mix together and seduce me into an intoxicated state. I love running my fingers through the spices. All the colours are so earthy – rich and warm and nourishing.

I make a total of about 2 cups full of this mix – more if I have enough ingredients.

All the spices piled together before mixing.

All the spices piled together before mixing.

My beautiful mixture of spices - mmmmm.... inhale and bliss out! Don't they look as if they will make something warm and nourishing!

My beautiful mixture of spices – mmmmm…. inhale and bliss out! Don’t they look as if they will make something warm and soulful!

I then mix the spices with the base – as I said above black, green or white tea or herbs. There are so many options. Today I chose black tea and red rooibos.

I mix roughly 1 portion of the spice mix to 2 portions of the tea/rooibos. For example 2 handful of spice mix to 4 handfuls of rooibos. I like using my hands – any excuse to stir the aromas.

Then again I blend the two portions together with my hands to make the completed product!! Homemade, personally refined, cheaper and better quality chai than I can procure easily!! Plus I have the lovely olfactory and sensation adventure for my hands and nose and eyes.  Soon to become a gustatory (taste) sensation adventure – but I’ll write about that in a couple of days – how I make chai.

Loose black tea leaves on the left and red rooibos on the right.

Loose black tea leaves on the left and red rooibos on the right.

My homemade red rooibos chai - sooooo fragrant.

The hearty colours of my homemade red rooibos chai – sooooo fragrant.

My black tea chai!! Look at that contrast of colour and textures. Can't wait to try it!! Come over and we'll have a warm cuppa together!!

My black tea chai!! Look at that contrast of colour and textures. Can’t wait to try it!! Come over and we’ll have a warm cuppa together!!

Enjoy the adventure of making this chai. Any favourite additions/ changes YOU make please let me know. I’m always after new sensation experiences – especially food ones. Food/beverages make my life so much richer and my body healthier. It’s worth the time to make food – satisfying in so many ways. And then to share it. Each meal can become an adventure.

Happy adventuring!

Hasta pronto……

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8 responses to “Essential Chai

    • Seeing as you are my most frequent commentator I might just bring some over personally on Thursday and enjoy it with you on Friday morning!! It really is delicious!

  1. Pingback: A nice hot cuppa… | Fiona likes to blog·

    • Its just a shame I couldn’t attach the fabulous aromas of the spices to the post as well. They look warm and inviting and the aromas are heavenly!!!

  2. Pingback: You Know You’re In The Country When….. | Fiona On The GO·

  3. Just found this site, the chai tea recipe is just excellent, many thank. Then I got hooked int reading lots of your posts! Now I need to get on and sort out the autumn garden here on a bright day in Yorkshire.

    • Hi Yorkshire Girl

      Glad you like the chai – its great.

      Funny you are going out into an autumn day. I’ve just been out transplanting a whole lot of seedlings for spring!! And watering. We haven’t had really decent rain here for two years so the garden struggles. I’ve been watering lately to make the most of the spring surge so if you’ve any spare rainclouds, please send them our way!!

      Happy gardening and enjoy that cup of chai afterwards.

      Fiona

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