When I traveled in India, I had a ritual early in the morning (around 5am) and again in the late afternoon of going to the chai wallah to get a cup of chai…which was super decadent, full of rich, creamy buffalo milk, lots of caffeine and sugar, all for a few rupees (around 10 cents). Locals would gather around the wallah brewing a giant batch of chai waiting for him to finish. When it was practically boiling over, he would pour in our little cups (I would wonder for a split second if the cups had been washed but quickly didn’t care. It was that good) and the batch would be gone in a matter of minutes.
Well on this wintry day in Boulder, here is my caffeine free, sugar free, dairy free, more than a few rupees (not free), health freak version of that delicious Indian chai. And it is still delicious….
First, I want to say…DON’T BE INTIMIDATED! I read a NY Times article recently that said during a time when people are watching cooking shows obsessively and reading fancy food blogs, instead of being inspired, people are becoming so intimidated that they are either getting take out or going out for dinner more than ever. How ironic!
This recipe might at first sound like more work than it is (and it does involve making your own almond milk) but really the most time consuming part of this whole process is just gathering the ingredients so don’t get discouraged if you don’t have all the ingredients in your kitchen right now. Shop, stock up and I promise it will be easy from then on and if not, I’ll personally come over and make it for you.
The best thing to know about chai is you can’t screw it up so just experiment. Just play around with the different spices and see what you like the most. I make a big batch so it will last me for 3-4 days.
The other good thing about chai, if you make it decaffeinated and sugar free, it has a calming, stress-relieving, grounding effect (according to Ayurveda).
Chai spices: (there are so many variations, you can use a few of these spices or all of them…whichever ones you gravitate towards..mix up 2T of each spice in a bowl and then you can measure out 4-5T from that and you will have left overs for the next time (except for the fresh ginger of course).
green cardamom pods
- Boil 6 cups water, add about 4 to 5T of whichever spices you choose, reduce heat and simmer for a minimum of 15 min or as long as you want.
- Remove from heat
- Add 3-4 Tulsi tea caffeine free tea bags and steep for 10 min.
- Strain and store in a mason jar.
- soak 2 cups almonds (cover the almonds with water… leave uncovered for 12-24 hours).
- rinse almonds
- put almonds and 4 cups of water in a vitamix or blender, add 2-6 medjol dates (ok so i lied, there is sugar) and blend on high for at least 2 minutes
- strain through a cheese cloth (you can order online, get at Peppercorn if you are in Boulder or any kitchen store), squeeze with your hand all the milk out into a bowl…you need a little muscle for this process (just a little…my daughter does this part for me).
- add a pinch of salt
I put both the chai and the almond milk in mason jars and store in the fridge.
When I want my daily cup, I heat up the tea on the stove and this is the best part…steam up the almond milk in my Nespresso (which is one of my favorite kitchen splurges) and voila…it’s yummy.
You can also just add the almond milk to your tea and heat it up together.
Lastly, if you have to sweeten it (I am sort of anti-sugar and think it’s evil and the root of many health problems but I realize i’m extreme on this topic), add a little honey or maple syrup.