Updated: Dec 10, 2022
Do you like tea as much as I do? If I had to choose only one drink for the rest of my life, it would definitely be tea. I'm a big tea drinker. Every day. Even several times a day! Herbal tea in the summer, ginger tea with my meals, black tea in the morning with a savory breakfast, green tea in the afternoon, etc. I'm very specific about the kinds of tea I drink, and of course the quality of tea is very important as well.
Today I'm going to share with you how to make chai tea. I call this drink "a healing drink" because each component (ginger, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, anise star, cardamom, black tea, maple sugar, and coconut milk) is a medicine.
Why Chai Tea?
This chai tea is my go-to drink in the cooler months. I like to have it after dinner or even sometimes before bed. This spicy-sweet chai tea is super easy to make on the stovetop, and all the ingredients are natural and very beneficial to your health.
Spices are the Spice of Life
I'm big lover of spices. Spices have been in my life - in my diet, in my medicine cabinet, and in my mind - since I was very young. Where I'm from, most people prefer their food on the bland side. Not me. I think I got this palate from my father, who loves spicy food. I remember my mom would say to him, "you're adding so much chili pepper to your borscht that you can hardly see anything but pepper in your bowl." Not only do I love all the flavors spices give, but I believe food can be medicine and that having spices in your diet is so important.
In fact, worldwide scientific research has linked spices to the prevention and treatment of more than 150 health problems, including heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer's. Spices are so powerful because they're a super-rich source of plant compounds that fight oxidation and inflammation, the two processes underlying most chronic disease.
When I talk about spices, I don't mean "old bay" or other spice mixes like that. I mean spices that have not been processed and have no additives like preservatives, sugar, msg, etc. I make all my spice mixes myself, and sometimes my husband calls my kitchen "Inna's lab."
Buying a large quantity of different spices all at the same time can get expensive, but so is buying chai tea at a coffeeshop! Homemade definitely saves money and is better for you. More nutrients (not just sugar and artificial flavors). Also, here's a fun frugal fact: did you know cinnamon sticks can be rinsed, dried again, and reused? And by roasting whole spices like coriander seeds, fenugreek, and fennel, you can get more aroma from less spice.
5 years ago, I became a US citizen. I couldn't be prouder. I went to New York to see the Statue of Liberty for the first time. After a few days of wandering around the big city, we went to the Chelsea Market. What a joy it was for me, like a kid in a candy store. I loved all the different types of foods. And of course, the spice store was truly heaven for me. I brought home half a suitcase of just spices! Here is one of my happy place pictures.
What About the Spices in Chai?
Turmeric and Black Pepper
These two spices are powerful on their own but combining them really increases their power. Why? Turmeric contains curcumin. Black pepper contains piperine. When these two combine they tend to have a greater effect on inflammation, digestion, reducing pain, and fighting cancer.
Ginger is my go-to spice. I love to have ginger tea before bed or with my meals because it helps with digestion. Ginger is rich in phytonutrients called gingerols, which are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, antiviral, and anti-disease.
Anise is used to flavor digestifs that are popular in taverns along the Mediterranean. The French call these digestifs "pastis," in Greece it's "ouzo," and in Turkey it's "raki." In the Middle East, scientists found that the anethole in anise works to reduce digestive spasms in the same way as the prescription drug atropine, which is used to treat stomach and intestinal spasms. Writing in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, the researchers also noted that anethole has anti-inflammatory properties that might help calm asthma.
How Flexible are the ingredients?
You don't have to follow my recipe exactly. You can substitute whatever ingredients suit your taste and budget.
Choose your own base for the drink. If you don't like coconut milk, use cashew milk or any other milk of your choice, non-dairy or dairy.
I used maple sugar as a sweetener in the video, but you can use any sugar you like. I recommend coconut sugar, date sugar, honey, or maple syrup. If you're looking for a sugar-free option, I suggest monk fruit.
You can make this tea extra special by topping it with whipped cream or whipped coconut cream.
You can also try to experiment with spices. The combination of spices is endless! Sometimes I like to add fennel seeds, bay leave, cloves, all-spice, etc.
This recipe makes 4 cups of chai tea. If you don't want to make so much at once, you can reduce the amount and make a single serving. Use a tea bag if that's what you have on hand (though I would avoid any tea with mysterious ingredients like "natural flavor," etc.). You can control how strong your tea will be. If your tea is strong, use half the amount. This tea can be made in a slow cooker for 2 hours.
You can freeze leftover tea for popsicles. Sometimes I like to add vanilla before freezing. My boys love it.
Note on Cardamom
Buying whole cardamom pods is not only cheaper, but it can also last longer. To open the pods, firmly press down on each pod with the flat side of a chef's knife. Pick out the seeds and discard the shell of the pod. Grind the seed with a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Author: Inna of innichkachef.com
1 tablespoon black tea
2 pieces of candied ginger, chopped
2 cups coconut milk (or milk of your choice)
2 cups water
6-7 cardamom pods, crushed (see note above)
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2-4 pieces of maple sugar candy (or 2-4 teaspoons sugar of your choice)
Add milk and 2 cups of water to the pot. Add black tea and the rest of the spices.
Add sugar and stir.
Bring to a gentle boil.
Cover the lid and let it steep for 5 minutes.
Strain the spices out and serve.