I pay a price living in Los Angeles, literally. This town may be more expensive than New York City: my former residence. I realized this after I willingly payed $5 for a small iced chai latte, my new iced coffee alternative for the summer. Granted, I was in Beverly Hills, but after one sip, I realized there are benefits to learning how to make iced chai at home, with better ingredients and for less money.
Chai means "tea" in Hindi, and the chai that you are usually accustomed to in coffee shops bearing that same name is actually masala chai, which translates to "spiced tea." Masala chai is made from black tea, and is typically flavored with green cardamom, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, fresh ginger, and black peppercorns. Star anise, vanilla beans, nutmeg, and fennel seeds can also be included in the mix. Milk, or any non-dairy alternative, is added to the spiced tea near the end of the steeping process, as is a sweetener of your choice — I like brown sugar.
As the temperature inches close to 90 degrees, a warm cup of masala chai is not my go-to drink when I’m looking for a caffeine buzz. However, iced chai, made with a chai concentrate, cold milk, and ice, is the perfect fix. In the fall, the concentrate can be turned into a hot drink by warming it on the stove top and adding milk. However you choose to serve it, just don’t call it "tea tea," otherwise known as "chai tea." Rookie mistake.
- 4 cups water
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1-3-inch section of fresh ginger, sliced
- 12 green cardamom pods, crushed
- 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
- 1 tsp. whole cloves
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
- 8 black tea bags
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, bring the water and brown sugar to a boil over medium-high heat.
Once the water comes to a boil, adjust the heat to low, and add in the cinnamon sticks, ginger slices, crushed cardamom pods, peppercorns, cloves, and ground nutmeg. Let the spices simmer for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, take the saucepan off the heat, and add the tea bags. Let the tea bags steep for five minutes.
Take the tea bags out of the pot, and stir in the vanilla extract. Strain the spices out of the chai using a fine mesh sieve. Don't have a sieve? No problem. Place a colander on top of a pitcher or large bowl, and layer a couple of paper towels or coffee filters on top to catch the loose spices.
Refrigerate the chai for at least two hours to cool. Once cooled, fill a glass with ice, and add a one-to-one ratio of chai concentrate with milk or a dairy substitute.
I like almond milk in mine. Stir to combine, and enjoy!
Images: Nina Helmer/Flickr; Taylor Henriquez