It’s chai season here. Although it’s my favorite hot tea and I drink it throughout the year, the chillier months seem to claim it as their own, and who am I to argue?
I first tried chai while living in community and working in the kitchen at Omega Institute in Upstate New York. One of my supervisors was Kim from Michigan. She brewed up new (to me) and wonderful concoctions almost every day. Once I smelled and sampled her simmering chai, I knew that it would become a part of my life, til death do us part. Before the end of the season, she was kind enough to include its ingredients in a personal letter that I keep in a recipe book to this day. The recipe below is a combination of her ingredients and the measurements of each that I’ve found works best over years of making it.
In the past, I never really thought of the nutritional benefits of spices in the same way as regular foods, but I’ve learned they are surprisingly healthy. Each of the ingredients in this recipe contributes to health & well-being in a number of ways. In addition to its sublime smell and taste, chai is a nutritional powerhouse among teas.
According to Healthline.com, fresh ginger not only helps with nausea, which is the one benefit most of us are familiar with, but can also help lower cholesterol, improve brain function, and reduce A1c levels. Cloves may benefit bone health, liver function, and reduce stomach ulcers. Cinnamon has the potential to reduce chronic inflammation, protect from free radical damage, and lower the risk for heart disease. Black pepper may help with gut health, pain relief, and appetite reduction. Cardamom is shown to fight cavities, improve digestion, and lessen anxiety. The few studies that have been done on bay leaves show that they may help prevent seizures, kidney stones, and kill cancer cells. Pure Chinese star anise has been used for thousands of years to fight viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. And black tea may help lower blood pressure, reduce stroke risk, and improve focus. Impressive for an humble tea, huh?
Chai recipes abound on the internet, all with varied flavor profiles. But this one, made super-spicy, is my favorite. You’ll find the taste out of this world, and the aroma just perfect for the holidays.
(And if this recipe sounds good to you, please check out my other healthy, delicious recipes in Micro of the Macro’s new Categories link!)
Makes 1/2 gallon
8 cups water
2-3 inches of thinly sliced ginger (choose your spice level)
2 cinnamon sticks
12 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
8 green cardamom pods
8-12 whole cloves (choose your spice level)
3 whole star anise
6 black or Earl Grey tea bags
Sweetener of choice (optional)
Milk of choice (optional – for lattes)
Place first 8 ingredients (through star anise) in a large covered pot & bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer for one hour. Remove from heat and add tea bags to steep for 20 minutes. Squeeze out tea bags, strain & enjoy with or without sweetener of your choice. Or add sweetener & milk of your choice for a delicious chai latte. Store extra (without milk) in the fridge in a covered glass container for 3-4 days.