Here are some more ideas for delicious summer drinks!
I can remember my first-ever chai tea latte. It was a Saturday in the early spring of 1998, and I had a terrible cold. Feeling sick, I had played hooky from a friend’s bat mitzvah (this was seventh grade, when every weekend’s activity revolved around bar and bat mitzvahs), yet I was somehow up to joining my family on a shopping trip to the Upper West Side. Not only was my nose running but it was also raining out, and at last my family and my whiny thirteen year-old self took refuge in the local Starbucks. I think I ordered a chamomile tea, adding honey to it to soothe my poor throat. I took a sip, and my sense of smell and taste clogged by my sickness, I couldn’t taste a thing. I might as well have been drinking hot water, and I set my tea angrily down.
Someone else–maybe my older sister, Jill–ordered a chai tea latte, which can’t have been on Starbucks’ menu for very long at that point. I for one had never seen it, heard of it, or tried it. But unlike every other scent in the world that day, I could smell it. The mix of black tea, cinnamon, cloves, and other spices made its way through my stuffy nose, and it was like an epiphany.
Jill, fearless of contagiousness or perhaps looking to pawn her tea off, for unknown reasons, onto her little sister, let me have a sip. Like the smell, the taste got through to me too, and from that moment I was hooked. The one sip became several, and soon I had finished the whole cup, tasting every sip. It’s the kind of flavor mix that appeals to me–creamy, like ice cream, and spiced, like gingersnaps.
As the years went by, I drank a lot of Chai Tea Lattes, hot and cold. At some point, I got a little tired of paying so much for them, and I looked into making them at home.
Though chai tea at home is far better than chai tea bought at coffee shops, mostly because it’s less achingly sweet, it’s not really a production to make. In fact, like many of our Working With What You Have dishes on this site, it’s just about having a stocked pantry and spice rack. After that, all it really takes is a scant bit of motivation, which in my case was derived from the arrival of summer and the desire for something very cold to drink.
From my kitchen, brewin’ chai tea, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Iced Chai Tea Latte
Makes 1 drink
6 tablespoons Chai Tea Concentrate (recipe follows)
1 cup milk of your choice*
*If you use sweetened almond, soy, or rice milk, you may need to play around to make the concentrate less sugary. This recipe was developed using 2% milk.
Pour both the Chai Tea Concentrate and the milk into a glass, stirring to combine them. Add a large handful of ice, and drink immediately.
You can make this into a hot drink for winter by warming the milk and chai concentrate slowly in a small saucepan until very hot. Serve in a mug.
Chai Tea Concentrate
Makes 1 1/2 cups, enough for 4 lattes
3 tablespoons sugar
8 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half
1 slice ginger, peeled
5 whole cloves
4 whole black peppercorns
2 black teabags
1 tablespoon honey
Combine all ingredients except the honey in a pot. Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower slightly and let simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let steep for 5 minutes. Remove the teabags, squeezing out any liquid from them. Let the spices steep for another 15 minutes. Strain, removing all the spices. Add the honey and stir in. Taste, adding more honey if you like.
The concentrate is easily doubled and will last a while in the fridge.