Monday, September 15, 2014

Chai Tea at Home without an Expensive Machine

This lovely cup is my morning must-have and as much as I love tea it was surprisingly (sadly, really) Starbucks that brought chai into my realm of existence. I still love my green and herbal teas but there is just something special about a really good chai.

Starbucks' prices alone are enough for me to boycott the place but in the past I have gone there in desperation for caffeine. I had the misfortune (fortune?) of seeing my chai tea being made one day. Oh, my. Did they really just pump a brown syrupy substance into my cup, a tea concentrate, if you will, and expect me to drink it? Yes, they did. And yes, I did. Not a proud moment but I like myself even less when going through caffeine withdrawal. Also, not too long ago, I found out that Starbucks supports the Grocery Manufacturers Association (boo, hiss!) that has donated millions of dollars to stop your right to know what is in your food- namely, genetically modified ingredients. I now make it a point to not give one dollar of my money to Starbucks and to make sure that I bring my caffeine with me from home- or live with the monster headache.

Making chai at home is the obvious solution when it comes to cost and health benefits. The antioxidants will still be intact and it won't be filled with inflammatory sugar or GMO's and antibiotics from the milk. Milk was actually my only issue with the home brew: how in the world was I going to froth it without a fancy, costly machine? After looking into a couple of frothers online I came across this gem.

This handheld frother goes for $2.49 at Ikea making it the most affordable option, hands down. If you don't have an Ikea by you, no worries, I have seen these babies on Amazon, too.

So, with the frothing part down let's get to the tea. Chai is a spiced tea that is traditionally consumed in India. Chai actually means tea in the Hindu language. In India, black tea is boiled with spices and then served with milk and honey. I make my own chai using organic black tea bags and powdered spices.

The great thing about making chai at home is that you get to control exactly how much sugar and what type of milk goes into your cup. I use stevia to sweeten as it is calorie-free and I have a personal policy to not drink my calories in everyday beverages. Plus, it's a plant- practically a vegetable, really. Be careful of the stevia that is sold in the grocery stores, however, as it is most likely a highly processed powder that bares little resemblance to the actual stevia plant.

Stevia is a green herb. The stevia I use from Mountain Rose Herbs, in the photo above, is a green powder (makes sense, right?). The packet of stevia from the grocery store is white. I don't know how it got like that and probably don't want to know, either. The bag from Mountain Rose Herbs will last a loooong time, too, as you only need a little pinch per cup of chai. It goes for $5 for 4 oz. The unrefined green stevia is 10 to 15 times sweeter than table sugar and the refined stuff is 200 to 300 times more sweet. In my humble opinion, it is probably best to stick with the unrefined.

Here's how I make my morning chai:

While waiting for the water to boil, add 1 rounded teaspoon of chai tea into a French press along with a pinch of stevia (or to taste). You will want to add the stevia while it is brewing due to the unrefined powder not dissolving well into liquids. Add boiling (not hot) water to the French press and cover with the top.

Little side-note here: all tea should be covered as it steeps, not only to retain water temperature but to keep the volatile oils from evaporating in the steam. These oils have most of the health benefits and you want those in your cup, not the air.

Let the tea steep for five minutes. While the tea is steeping, pour about two tablespoons of almond (or other milk substitute) into a mug and use the handy dandy frother to whip up some awesome almond fluffiness. When the tea is done steeping, pour into the mug in a steady stream and the froth will automatically rise to the top. The whole process takes under six minutes (if you have an electric kettle) which is faster than you would get it at Starbucks, not to mention way cheaper and sans all the added sugar and antibiotics and GMO's from the cow's milk. (See why I don't drink cow's milk here.) With real tea and spices your home brew is as healthy as it gets- enjoy!

Kate's Chai Tea Mix
From Living Life Granola
1 box of Whole Foods's 365 Black Tea, 70 count (or 1 1/2 cups loose black tea)
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground allspice, optional (this is not in your typical chai tea but I like the flavor)
Please use organic ingredients when you can.

If you use the 365 tea bags they are already nicely lined up to cut open multiple bags at once. Dump all the tea into a mixing bowl and add in the spices. Stir well and store in an airtight container in a dark cabinet. Do not refrigerate as this will degrade the quality of the tea. Use within one year.

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