I have loved chai lattes ever since the mega coffee chains that you see on every street corner made them mainstream. Having said that, the syrupy sweet, not too spicy lukewarm chai lattes that you find in those types of shops could use some improvement.
My version may not be authentic, I have not consulted an Indian cook or even a cookbook. I just played around with spices, toasting them gently and then infusing them in roiboos tea and sweet milk. I have really made this to suit my taste, so feel free to adjust the spices as you like. JS finds my version a little heavy on the spice (just the way I like it!).
Please don't be intimidated by the list of ingredients, they are all easily accessible and you can omit the ones you don't have or don't like. I find that all these spices are used very frequently in my house.
This spicy, creamy and not too sweet chai has now got me thinking about incorporating these tastes into an ice cream or gelato since I now have an ice cream maker!! Imagine the spiciness in a cold ice cream with just a hint of sweetness....I'll work on that this summer!
My Un-Authentic Roiboos Chai
6 cups water
3-4 cinnamon sticks
8 cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2-1 tsp black peppercorns
1 big piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into large chunks
1 star anise or 1 tsp anise
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp loose vanilla roiboos (or plain roiboos, or if you insist, plain black tea)
1 cup whole milk
Toast all the spices except the ginger and the bay leaf over medium heat in a dry frying pan. When they become fragrant, after about 4 or 5 minutes, remove from heat and transfer them to a mortar and pestle. Gently crush them with the pestle until they are broken up, you don't have to grind them to a powder.
Put all the spices, including the ginger and bay leaf, into a pot with the water and the sugar. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to medium, cover the pot and simmer for about 30 minutes. Turn the heat off, then add the tea and cover to infuse for about 5 minutes.
Strain the liquid through a mesh strainer into another pot* then add the milk, add more or less to your taste. Put the chai back over medium heat for about 5 minutes to warm the milk.
Pour into mugs and enjoy!
*at this point, if you are not going to use all the chai, pour some of it into a pitcher, allow to cool then keep in the fridge for a few days. When you want a cup, just add some milk and heat it on the stove until warm.