photo: www.flickr.com/photos/kk/14437166/

Thanksgiving is always one of my favorite times of year. One of the things I enjoy the most is experimenting with new recipes. While Thanksgiving is a traditional holiday, I like to try creating one new dish every year and it doesn’t have to be something exotic either. It can be as simple as Sweet Potato Casserole with a dash of nutmeg or Mashed Potatoes with a touch of truffle oil. Recipes are fun and are meant to be altered to taste. I particularly like to tweak, taste and test my way to a brand new and delcious spin on things.

One thing that can be tweaked 100 different ways is Chai Tea. Chai is simply a mixture of tea and spices. Much like mashed potatoes, there is no “correct way” to make Chai, it is all about personal preference. If you have never tried your own Chai recipe, I can’t think of a better time than Thanksgiving to start. Here is a quick recipe and guidelines for making Chai at home.

The Basic Ingredients

- Tea – Traditionally Assam or Ceylon teas are used. Assam’s are maltier while Ceylon’s are more astringent (to hold up to the taste of the spices)

- Cloves -Try and use whole cloves. In my opinion, the powdered stuff loses its flavor too quickly when you store it

- Green Cardamom Pods – This is an essential ingredient. It may be the most important one here. Most grocery stores carry ground cardamom in the spice section, but if you have an ethnic grocery store nearby you may want to pick up the whole pods, which taste better in my opinion.

- Whole Peppercorns – This is actually what back pepper is made out of. If you don’t have peppercorns you can always substitute normal black pepper.

- Fresh Ginger – Fresh ginger helps give Chai its “tanginess”

- Cinnamon Sticks – Like most dried ingredients, a whole stick of cinnamon retains its flavor much longer than the powdered version

- Sugar – You can use any type of sweetener

- Milk – I prefer 2%, but this is a personal preference.

The “Basic” Recipe

- 2 Tbsp tea
- 4 whole cloves
- 3 cardamom pods
- 2 peppercorns
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 chunk (about 1/2 inch) of peeled ginger, either sliced or chopped

How to Make it (Like some do in India)

- Boil all the ingredients in 1 1/2 cups water in a small sauce pan
- Add 2 cups milk and simmer for 5 minutes
- Strain and serve

Put Your Own Spin on It

This is where it gets fun when making your Chai. The following ingredients are used for Chai in different parts of the world. If there is something else you think would taste good, by all means use it. When it comes to Chai, there are no rules.

- Allspice – Adds a slight sweetness

- Bay Leaves – Try and use the Indian version if you can find them

- Coriander – This is the seed of the cilantro plant. One of the more popular flavors added to Chai

- Fennel – A slight black liquorice flavor adds a layer of depth

- Star Anise – Another way to add a black licorice flavor. Use sparingly because it has a potent flavor

- Vanilla Bean – To make your own Vanilla Chai!

Summary

Just like mashed potatoes, there is no “correct” way to make Chai. I hope some of these guidelines help get you started on creating your own version. And you never know, you may end up creating your own “secret recipe.”

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