Yesterday I had the pleasure of teaching some pretty special high school students how to make chai. And while they were very savvy about spices, cardamom had them stumped. It's one of my favorite spices in the world, and most chai recipes include it an essential element.
This is my take on Chai, including variations for vegan Chai as well. Feel free to adjust it to your own tastes, but I highly recommend keeping in the fennel, peppercorns and cardamom for balance. Even one of the students who was very convinced that black peppercorns had no place in her sweet chai agreed that this blend was one of the best she had tasted.
The recipe below is for a single serving of 8 ounces of chai (small coffee cup), so double, triple, quadruple, etc. to tailor your needs. But please trust me on the vegan version; boiled non-dairy milks of any kind will NOT be tasty!
Spicy Sweet Chai
Makes 1, 8oz serving
1/2 cup water
12/ cup whole milk (or non-dairy milk of your choice)
1/2 inch slice of ginger, peeled (or not)
4 whole peppercorns
2 whole cloves
1/2 inch cinnamon stick
4 whole green cardamom pods
1/2 star anise
1/8 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
2 whole allspice berries
1 teaspoon loose leaf tea (green, black, matcha)
1 teaspoon sugar (to taste)
Place all the spices in a mortar and pestal and grind carefully until cinnamon, cardamom, and star anise are broken up and other spices (peppercorns, cloves, fennel, allspice) are cracked open.
Place water and dairy milk in sauce pan along with spices and ginger and sprinkle tea across the top. If making the vegan version, do NOT add non-dairy milk to tea mixture on the stove. Heat on high until the mixture comes to a roiling boil, then turn down to simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in any tea that may have been caught in the dairy foam to ensure it is simmering with all of the tea.
Turn off heat and allow to cool 5 minutes before straining through fine wire sieve or bamboo chai basket; add sugar to taste.
For the vegan version, heat non-dairy milk on low heat until just barely warm. Strain hot tea through fine wire sieve or bamboo chair basket and then add warmed non-dairy milk and sugar to taste.
Fun Note: If you have a french press, add the warmed, non-dairy milk to it and plunge the milk to foam it, which is how one of the students created her foam art as pictured above.