Chris tends to rank food and experiences, like “this is probably among my top three xyz I’ve ever had”. It’s just the way he operates. I don’t really like to catalogue dishes that way, because maybe I’ve forgotten some things, and I don’t want to be responsible for items I don’t remember. But. I will make an exception for chai.
The best cups of chai I’ve ever tasted are made by Namaste Cafe in Minneapolis, and by my mom. I’ve seen her make it all throughout my existence and it looks really simple. But Chris and I have both tried recreating it and it’s not the same at all.
My mom says her secret ingredient is love. But I’m pretty sure I was messing up the recipe. So this time, I decided to document her exact steps. In the spirit of the season (if you can still call it that), I’m sharing them with you. So here we go:
- 2-inch cinnamon stick (you’ll only use 3/4 of it)
- 3 cardamom pods
- 1 peppercorn
- 1 clove
- 1 1/2 cup milk (we used skim but my mom prefers at least 2%)
- 2 black tea bags (we used Lipton)
- Optional: Honey
- Coarsely ground cardamom pods, clove and peppercorn. (See first image below.)
- Smash the middle of the cinnamon stick until it breaks into large pieces. Use 3/4 of the 2-inch cinnamon stick and remove the rest of the cinnamon.
- Boil water with spices.
- Once water turns golden (see second image below), add two teabags.
- Once tea stains water a dark amber (see third image below), add just one cup of milk to the pot.
- Wait for tea to come to a full boil again for about 10 seconds.
- Turn heat off and let steep for another 30 seconds. If too dark, add remaining milk.
- Sweeten with honey to taste.
Side note: “Chai” means “tea” in Hindi, so no need to say “chai tea”.