January 27, 2011

Steeping chai tea

My beverage of choice this winter is chai tea. It is so soothing and pleasant. If you've never had chai tea, you've gotta try it...you just gotta! I also love to drink it in this vintage tea cup, complete with saucer. You know that tea just tastes so much better when it's in a vintage tea cup, right?!

You can buy chai in tea bags or "ready to drink" in a sealed carton in the coffee and tea aisle at the grocery store. I found loose Organic chai at a local, non chain, coffee house. It costs $5 for 4 ounces. Now, that probably sounds a little expensive...that's what I thought too. But holy cow, wait til you see how far it goes! What I have pictured here is less than 4 ounces...it's just a sampling so you can get a good look at it!

Chai, is pronounced as a single syllable with a "ch" and a long sounding "i"...it rhymes with "pie"...hmm, I like chai AND pie! Ok, sorry!

Basically, chai is a rich black tea combined with various spices and then mixed with heavy milk and a sweetener such a sugar. The spices in chai can vary, but the most common are cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and pepper.

Chai is known to produce a warm soothing effect giving a wonderful sense of well being. It has also been said that it is a natural digestive aid.

Just a note of reference, chai, is the actual word for tea in many countries. People have been drinking chai for centuries in many parts of the world, most especially in India.

For loose tea, you can use a steeper. There are many different kinds on the market. I happened to buy mine at Pier 1 Imports, go figure...for those of you who don't know, I work there. A tea steeper holds loose tea leaves while being infused into hot water...creating tea. It basically acts as a tea bag. I believe the fine mesh steepers allow more tea flavor into your tea, but this is what I am using for now, and I am doing just fine. However, I do plan to experiment with a fine mesh steeper.

The water should be hot when steeping tea. A point of interest here...I have read that you shouldn't use boiling water because extreme heat burns the tea leaves essential oils, producing a less flavorful tea. Sometimes while I'm waiting for my tea to steep, the water does get a little on the luke warm side. I just reheat it a bit..no harm done.

To make it a traditional cup of chai tea, one must use heavy milk, or half n half. I always have half n half on hand...that's what I like to use. I would recommend taking the chill off the half n half by letting it sit on the counter for a bit, or just heat it in the microwave in a small dish for 3 seconds tops. If you don't...well, you're just going to make your tea cold and you'll have to heat it up again!

Adding sugar to chai tea is a must. It enhances the flavors of the spices making them more robust and flavorful.

Ahhhh, chai tea...it's a thing of beauty. If you want to buy some at the grocery store, might I recommend the brand TAZO. All of TAZO teas are wonderfully fantastic! You can't go wrong. If you're at a coffee house, I'm quite certain you will find a chai latte on the menu...you could certainly try it there! You will not be disappointed!