I’m writing this on my phone as I sit on an airplane heading to Vegas with my husband for a quick anniversary getaway – so we’ll see how the formatting turns out, haha! Sure would love to be typing it from my laptop but that is currently in the shop getting a new charging port installed. The joys of raising children, folks. Anything you own that is remotely nice or costly has a target on it’s back the instant those adorable gremlins make their way into the world (this is the second time I’ve had to replace the charging port in a year so I feel like the term gremlins is fully justified).
Anyway. Mooooving on.
Last year I arrived at an off-grid homestead in the hills of Galilee and the first thing I was served upon my arrival was a steaming hot cup of homemade Indian Chai by a woman named Hagit. Chai had never been something I’d had much of before, probably because I’d never tried THIS particular chai. It was pure magic. The spices sang through a sea of creamy almond milk in a way I had never experienced before.
Of course I begged for the recipe and she obliged. I traveled home and tried to make the tea again but my effort paled in comparison to the glory that I was served back in Israel.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when my baby sister walked in the door with an iced chai latte from the local coffee brewer and insisted that everyone try it – and for good reason! It was uh-mazing. I was instantly transported back to that hot, late-summers morning in Galilee and my need to recreate that chai had a new fire lit beneath it.
Of course, I checked out that coffee shop to see if I could find out what chai blend they were using so that I had something to go off of, but turns out that the brand they use is not sold to the public. Not cool, man!!
So, using the recipe that Hagit had giving me coupled with several trials and errors, I made a blend that worked for me. Increasing the amount of spices made a big difference. I think the spices available here in the states (or at least the ones I found) are less potent or not as fresh as those in Israel. So, if you feel that the spices you have access to are very fresh and potent you would probably be ok to use less than what I have listed here.
You could use any kind of milk or nut milk to make this latte, but I went with coconut because it gives the most wonderful exotic and fresh touch to this drink. I’ve included a recipe for making coconut milk from a fresh coconut, but you can follow the same recipe using dried flakes coconut instead. Just make sure that you aren’t using sweetened coconut! I usually use the large dried flakes and they work wonderfully.
One trick I found to make sure that the cinnamon really comes through in the chai concentrate? Place a cinnamon stick in the jar with the liquid. Let it sit overnight in the fridge and it will infuse the mix with a nice cinnamon punch.
Make sure to test the mix for sweetness – you’ll want the concentrate to be sweeter than the finished drink since it will be mixed with coconut milk. I like a ratio of 2 parts chai to 1 part coconut milk, but test for yourself and customize it to your preferences.
- FOR THE COCONUT MILK:
- 1 Fresh Coconut
- 1 teaspoon Sunflower Lecithin
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla (optional)
- FOR THE CHAI
- 6 cups Water
- 4 cinnamon sticks (divided)
- 20 Whole Cloves
- 12 Whole Cardamom Pods (lightly crushed)
- Scant ¼ cup Fresh Ginger, thinly sliced
- 6 Black Peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons Dried Rose Buds (optional)
- 2 tablespoons Loose Black Tea(or 6 black tea bags)
- ⅔ cup Sugar
- Ice, to serve
- FOR THE COCONUT MILK:
- Using a clean nail or small knife, poke a hole in the softest eye of the coconut. Hold the coconut over a bowl, eyes facing down and shake the coconut until all the water is drained from it. Strain the water and store it for another use (it’s great for drinking on its own or adding to smoothies).
- Use a hammer to crack open the coconut (or go out to your porch or driveway and simply drop it a few times - you’ll want to rinse the opened coconut if you use this method).
- Use a butter knife to pry the flesh from the hard brown shell. Discard the Shell.
- Cut the coconut meat into 1” pieces and place in a high speed blender. Fill the blender with water until it is 1” over the top of the coconut. Add the sunflower lecithin and vanilla to the blender.
- Cover the blender and process, slowly working your way up to high speed. Process for 1 minute at high speed.
- Place a nut milk bag or muslin cloth over a large bowl.
- Pour the coconut mixture into the bag or cloth. Twist the bag or cloth closed at the top and proceed to squeeze the liquid out over the bowl.
- Squeeze until all the liquid is extracted. Discard the pulp.
- Place the coconut milk in a sealed jar and refrigerate. Shake well before using.
- FOR THE CHAI:
- Place the water, 3 cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom pods, ginger, peppercorns, and rose buds (if using) in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and gently simmer the water and spices for 25 minutes.
- Taste and add more sugar if a sweeter tea is desired - remember that this is a concentrate and you’ll be adding 2 parts chai to 1 part coconut milk, so you’ll want it the chai mixture to be sweeter than the finished drink).
- Turn off the heat and add the black tea to the saucepan. Let steep for 10 minutes (no more!) and then strain the mixture into a quart sized mason jar and discard the solids. Add the remaining cinnamon stick to the jar, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
- TO SERVE:
- For each individual serving, fill a glass with ice and then pour the chilled chai mixture over the ice until the glass is ⅔ full.
- Fill the glass up the rest of the way with the chilled coconut milk.
- Stir and drink!
- If you’re feeling fancy you can always dust a little ground cinnamon over the top.