Monday, September 23, 2013

Homemade Chai Lattes

        There is so much to enjoy in a chai latte. It has a spicy warmth, a festive scent and when you hold a cup full of anything hot it feels homey. Some of the ingredients weren't  available at my regular grocery store so I planned a trip to Whole Foods with the sole purpose of getting the needed items. They were burning a hole in my pantry with the random few days of heat that followed but I held out hope knowing that September usually does give us a few chilly days. Soon enough the weather had the perfect crisp chill in it and  I was ready to make my first batch of the season.

   Chai will always have a soft spot in my heart for a bigger reason than just the taste. Every Christmas me and a small group of my friends would gather together on Christmas Adam ( named by my friends little brother because it is in fact the day before Christmas Eve...get it?) and eat, drink, sing and most importantly catch up on each other's lives. When it started it consisted of just a handful of us down in the basement of "The G's". We were tiny little high school students and looking for any extra excuse to hang out with one another over the long Christmas break. As the years have passed and passed since those first gatherings they now include babies, children, and spouses. For many of the people coming it no longer a short drive from their house, so the time spent catching up on lives has become even more central. As much as I love to talk with these dear friends the thing I might look forward to the most about the evenings is Daniel's homemade chai.

   Daniel would stand for what seemed like hours over the stove tossing in spice after spice into his pot, stirring it gently and offering small tastes to anyone. He hesitated to serve it until it tasted just right and for Daniel the chai needed time, slow time to develop into that delicious brew. The chai seemed to take shape just as the group did. Needing more of this and that at the start of the night until well into the evening when the flavors were rich and developed and a simple sip would make you feel like family was present. Daniel loved to master the art of crafting his delicious chai and we all loved him for it.  Whenever I decide to make chai in my little kitchen I am brought back to that slice in time, even with my small ones running around, even with no other adults present, I still am reminded of precious friendship.  I find it such a treasure when food or drink so directly connects you with a memory. For me that treasure is found in chai lattes. And though I have never gotten Daniel to give me his "recipe"( which if you know Daniel at all the likelihood of him even having a recipe is highly unlikely) I have attempted to make it many times without success...until now. Enjoy!

Chai Lattes

4 whole black peppercorns
5 green cardamom pods, smashed/cracked open slightly
6 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
a small chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 vanilla bean ( I use a bourbon soaked one and it was amazing one of the best smells I have enjoyed in a long while) Slice and open it, then use the backside of your knife blade to scrape out the seeds. Add both the seeds and the bean to the pan.
1 Tablespoon black tea, I used Assam
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 milk
Honey to taste (I used about 2-2 1/2Tablespoons)

Combine the peppercorns, smashed cardamom pods, cloves, ginger, vanilla bean/seeds, and cinnamon stick to a small pot filled with the water. Bring it to a boil, cover and simmer for a few minutes. After about 5 minutes take off of the stove and let it continue to steep (covered) for 10 minutes. Add the tea and continue to steep for another 5 minutes.

Pour the contents of the pot through a very fine strainer into another bowl. Pour liquid from the bowl back into the pot, add milk and honey, warm up a touch and serve hot.

I hope this drink creates special memories for you so that when you find yourself smelling the aromas of cloves, ginger and cinnamon your heart is happy and full.

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