Healthy Chai for Chilly Weather

My first time drinking chai (Hindi for tea) was in graduate school in the mid ’90s. I was house-sitting for a professor who had told me I could eat anything in the cupboards. Although I was a starving student (some days more literally than others), I was only brave enough to sample the packaged liquid spice mix for chai tea. It was one of the most luxurious treats I had ever had.

Looking back, I’m sure that other factors contributed to my epicurean experience: 1) it was cold and wet outside, 2) I was alone in a real house with real furniture – not in a spartan student apartment with a dictatorial roommate who kept the heat at 60 degrees, and 3) it was a simple pleasure at a time when piles of papers, classmate drama, and sleepless nights were life du jour. But the chai was pretty good, too.

I would later try to re-create the experience.  Unfortunately, I didn’t remember the brand and couldn’t find anything similar at the grocery store. And after the professor accosted me in the student lounge about a messed-up TV remote (I had accidentally sat on it) and her beagle that was now sleeping on the bed (I thought that was his thing!), it just didn’t feel right to ask.

I tried other chai teas over the years, nearly all in tea bags. Nothing tasted the same. I had given up on chai tea until I found the following recipe from K.P. Khalsa, an esteemed natural healing expert, researcher, and authority on Ayurvedic medicine. This recipe is traditionally used in India.

Despite its name, chai has only a miniscule amount of tea. And unlike store-bought lattes that are full of sugar, this warm beverage can be enjoyed every day to help maintain wellness. In addition to being quite tasty, the chai spices of black pepper, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger stimulate circulation and digestion and support the respiratory system. The perfect for cold weather pick-me-up!

The recipe below is for about 2 cups of tea. Start with about 10 ounces of water for each 8 ounce cup. I have doubled the recipe on cool, drippy days when I’m home and can just sip all day.  I usually pop the leftover amount in the fridge and then gently re-heat on the stove.

Traditional Yogi Tea -K.P. Khalsa

Yield: about two cups

20 oz. water

6 whole cloves

8 whole green cardamom pods

12 whole black peppercorns

1 stick cinnamon

2 slices fresh ginger root

1/2 tsp. black tea

1 cup milk

Honey to taste

  1. Bring to a boil. Simmer 20-30 minutes.
  2. Add 1/2 tsp. black tea (any kind) and blend in.
  3. Let sit for one or two minutes , then add 1 cup milk.
  4. Reheat until JUST about to boil and it becomes frothy.
  5. Remove from heat.
  6. Strain and serve with honey to taste.

I have also made this tea with rose water in the summer and it is divine!