A hot drink of something is always good no matter the season. Tea is no exception, particularly tea laden with healing herbs. In fact, it’s amazing to think the right blend can aid the immune system, improve digestion, decrease inflammation and possess antioxidant properties — a powerhouse of health and healing in one small cup. I’ll take more, please.
Chai is, in fact, another word for tea used in languages all over the world. What we call chai tea here in the west is an Indian inspired drink, typically a lovely mixture of black tea, cinnamon, ginger, cardamon, cloves and black pepper simmered and combined with warmed milk and sugar. Traditionally, the ingredients shift with the seasons and are designed to support the body throughout the year.
Possible Ingredients for Chai Through the Seasons
- Fall/spring: cardamom, ginger, tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)
- Winter: ginger, cinnamon, cloves, lemongrass, tulsi
- Summer: mint, fennel, cardamom, nutmeg, hyssop flowers, fresh nutmeg geranium leaves
I was first introduced to chai in my college days. My dear friend and co-worker, Michaela, would stand over the stove of the store kitchen of Moonrise Herbs, stirring sticks of cinnamon together with seeds and leaves. She’d often modify the mixture, adding in what sounded absolutely delicious at that very moment, and then we’d sit and sip. First breathing in the aroma and then taking in the rest. It was always wonderful, no matter the combination.
Just like bread hot from the oven, everything tastes best when homemade, including chai tea. There are an endless number of recipes, but here are 3 to get you started or to add to your collection. Mix and match ingredients for the season and modify to suit your particular needs.
Homemade Chai (serves 6)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled & thinly sliced
- 10 whole cloves
- 2 tsp black peppercorns
- 6 cardamom pods
- 6 cups water
- 6 black tea bags (try Darjeeling)
- 2 cups milk or milk substitute of choice (experiment with almond, coconut or soy)
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar or substitute with honey or coconut palm sugar & stevia to taste
Lemon Ginger Chai (serves 10)
- 3 inches fresh ginger, peeled & thinly sliced
- 1 lemon zested & quartered
- 5 peppercorns
- 8 – 10 cloves
- 1 tsp star anise, ground
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 cardamom pods
- Optional 6 tea bags
- 1/8 – 1/4 cup honey or sweetener substitute
How to prepare above recipes:
- Lightly bruise and crush spices with a soft mallet or other kitchen tool.
- Combine spices, herbs and lemons (for lemon ginger recipe only) in a saucepan with water and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover partially and stir occasionally for 10 minutes. Remove lemons. *Once lemons are removed, spices can be steeped for up to an hour.
- Remove from heat and add tea bags (optional for lemon ginger recipe), let steep about 5 minutes.
- Add milk and sugar (or substitutes), place back on heat and warm while whisking until sugar dissolves.
- Strain and serve hot.
- Add fresh lemon to the lemon ginger recipe before serving.
Chai from the Garden (serves 2)
- 3 anise hyssop flowers (Agastache foeniculum)
- 1/4 cup nutmeg geranium leaves, fresh (Pelargonium fragrans)
- 1 cup water, boiling
- 1 cup brewed black tea
- 1 cup milk, soy milk or other preference, warmed
- 2 Tbsp sugar, brown sugar or honey
How to prepare:
- Add geranium and hyssop flowers to a tea pot or other heat proof container.
- Pour 1 cup boiling water over the flowers and leaves, let steep 15 minutes.
- Brew tea and warm milk or milk substitute separately.
- Stain the herbal tea water from the leaves and flowers.
- Combine the herbal tea mixture with black tea and milk.
- Stir and serve with sugar or sugar substitute.
*Note: as a general rule of thumb, limit chai tea intake to about 2 cups per day.