This weekend, my sisters, brother-in-law, and my gram came to visit. Yummy food was involved (as always) as well as a good bit of shopping (we found some fantastic deals – always a win). Being a hostess for the weekend, I can now really appreciate the amount of effort my gram and mom must put in when family comes to visit. It was pretty easy, keeping the kitchen clean by washing dishes/loading the dishwasher in little spurts when there was a lull in activity so I could sneak away, unnoticed. The one thing, though, that must be really hard to keep up with when our whole family together, is having a full pitcher of iced tea. We’re big tea drinkers in my family. I had a full gallon pitcher filled when they got here, and I made two more batches before they left, and there’s only enough for one glass left. That was only with 5 tea drinkers.. we usually have at least double that! My poor gram and mom.. haha! And they even do separate pitchers of sweetened and unsweetened. I just made it unsweetened and had a simple syrup at the ready for whoever wanted to sweeten it up!
Now, my family loves regular black tea hot or iced, but my sister, Jenny, and I are the only ones who love a spicy chai every now and then. We got hooked on Bigelow’s Vanilla Chai when my sister first started college, and now it’s the chai I base every chai off of, the flavors are that good. When I make that tea, I brew it right into hot milk so that it’s not watered down at all – that ruins it for me. I finally decided to make my own chai concentrate so I could easily make an iced chai anytime I wanted.
This chai concentrate measured up to my standards. That means it has a good bit of vanilla in there. I used both vanilla beans and a bit of vanilla extract to make sure it would be as close to the flavors I got used to as I could make it. It worked! This is so easy to make, and SO good. A 1:1 ratio of concentrate to milk is perfect, and you can have it hot or iced! Spicy, lightly sweet, with a hint of vanilla. Perfectly refreshing.
The flavors in this chai are anise, cloves, nutmeg, black peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and vanilla, as well as black tea. I like buying my spices from the little Indian supermarkets around here – it’s a great place to buy whole spices in bulk for really great prices. If you have one near you, I definitely recommend checking it out before splurging on these spices at the grocery store. Cardamom and nutmeg can be absolutely ridiculously priced, but they were really reasonable at the market! For vanilla beans, I buy them in bulk from Amazon. I sweetened it up with honey and stevia – a tea you can feel good about.
This chai concentrate would be wonderful to give out as gifts in mason jars, or you could tie up little bundles of the spice mix with instructions on how to make it. I think I’d do a combination of both, so they could make some when they run out. :) It’s perfect year-round – I love it during the winter hot, but it’s just as good iced in the summer!
Are you an iced tea drinker? Do you like it flavored or straight up tea?
DIY Chai Concentrate
adapted from Tasty Yummies
makes about 1 quart (4 cups)
- 4 1/2 cups water
- 8 bags black tea, tags removed
- 1/4 cup honey (preferably raw)
- 1 vanilla bean, split and halved (or 1 T vanilla extract, added later)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut in pieces
- 10 whole cloves
- 8 green cardamom pods
- 2 whole anise stars
- 1/2 t whole black peppercorns
- 1/2 t nutmeg, freshly ground
- 1/4 t liquid stevia
- 1 t vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, combine the water and honey, and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
While the water is heating, place the spices in a small square of cheesecloth, leaving the cinnamon sticks out, and tie up in a bundle with a piece of kitchen twine (or the string from one of the tea bags). Tie the tea bags together by the strings. You can also just add the spices directly to the pan and strain them out later using a fine strainer.
Once the water is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer, and add the tea bags, cinnamon sticks, and spice pouch. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat, and remove the tea bags and spice pouch (or strain), gently squeezing the tea bags and spice pouch against a wooden spoon to remove excess liquid. Stir in the liquid stevia and vanilla extract.
Allow to cool completely before pouring into an airtight container (a quart-sized mason jar works wonderfully). Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
To serve, dilute the concentrate 1:1 (1 cup concentrate to 1 cup milk) with milk of your choice. Serve with ice or heat for a hot beverage.