Homemade Chai Concentrate is quick and easy to make with just a handful of spices and no refined sugar.
This little blog is four years old today! Can you believe it?
In past years, I have marked this occasion with a giveaway or with cake. (See reference: Caramel Apple Cake.) But since this past year has brought a multitude of life changes (engagement, wedding, starting to buy a house), I thought the most appropriate way of celebrating having a preschool-aged blog would be to share a quick and easy recipe that I make almost every week – because time and energy are always of the essence around here lately.
I love chai, but at some point I realized that stopping by the local coffee shop multiple times a week for my iced chai fix was putting a significant dent into my bank account. It was at that moment that I determined that I could make a homemade chai concentrate that was as good, if not better, than what I could get at the coffee shop or buy at the store. The added bonus would be knowing what was in it, particularly in terms of how much – and what kind – of sugar. So often the stuff you buy at the store is overly-sweet, to the point of masking some of the flavors of the spices. I knew I could do better.
This recipe took some real fiddling, but I have managed to get it to fit exactly what I was looking for. It is refined sugar-free, using coconut sugar and honey, and has a nice balance of spices. I played around with several recipes before I found one on The Prairie Homestead that seemed to be closer to what I was looking for, and continued to tweak it until it was juuuuuust right.
A few quick notes:
- Whole spices are cheaper than you think. I buy mine at a Mediterranean market for next to nothing, and they last forever. Buying larger quantities at an ethnic market is definitely your best bet. When in doubt (or in a small town with fewer options), try the internet.
- I use whole dried ginger, found at my local market (see above). I find this easier to keep on hand for chai at a moment’s notice than fresh ginger, and think it’s easier to use in this recipe than ground ginger.
- Almost all chai recipes will call for peppercorns. Mine does not. I tried it with them several times, and then without when I found I had run out. I didn’t really notice a difference without them, and have left them out since. If it makes you feel better, try adding up to a teaspoon to your whole spices.
- The vanilla is the real key to this recipe for me. I tried it several times without the vanilla, and every time it was a little bit “blah”. It was when I added the vanilla that all of the flavor notes really fell into place. I like using vanilla bean paste, but have also used a vanilla bean and vanilla extract. All will get you where you want to go. Try playing with different types of vanilla here – Madagascar for a traditional vanilla flavor, Mexican for a bit of spice, Tahitian for a touch of floral, fruity notes. Nielsen-Massey makes the best quality of all of the above.
- Most recipes – and even storebought concentrates – will suggest mixing 1 part concentrate with 1 part milk. I happen to love my chai, like all tea, pretty strong, so tend to lean towards a 2:1 ratio of concentrate to milk. Play with it and see what you like – because that is the beauty of making it at home!
Now, go forth and chai! You’ll be delighted how easy it is to make at home.
- 6 cups water
- ¼ cup coconut sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2-3 pieces whole, dried ginger
- 5 cinnamon sticks
- 2-3 star anise pods
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 7 allspice berries
- 1 heaping tablespoon cardamom seeds
- 5 black tea bags
- 1 vanilla bean OR 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste OR 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Milk of your choice, for serving
- In a saucepan, bring the water, coconut sugar and honey to a boil.
- Add the whole spices and vanilla bean, if using. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add the tea bags. Steep for 5 minutes before removing tea bags. Strain out the spices and stir in the vanilla bean paste or extract, if using.
- Pour into an airtight container and allow to cool to room temperature before storing in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- To serve, mix anywhere from 1 to 2 parts concentrate with 1 part milk of your choice (whole, soy, almond, coconut, etc). Serve over ice or heat.