Tea Tuesday

Tea Tuesday: Chai Concentrate

My tea making adventures didn’t end when I left Hawai’i. Just because I can no longer collect leaves and herbs while wandering from my cabin to the kitchen doesn’t mean I can’t visit my local co-op, pick up some spices from the bulk section, and make my own tea blends.

So! E and I made a chai concentrate, and you can too!

Full disclosure, we loosely followed this recipe, which teaches you how to make chai concentrate as a homemade Christmas gift… (Christmas in July, maybe?) However, this beverage can be enjoyed year around — all you have to do, if you’re suffering from a summer heat wave, is serve it over ice.



  •  4 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 8 bags black tea (just use whatever you have, we used 4 bags of Irish Breakfast and 4 bags of an Assam blend)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (broken in half to get the full flavor)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half (you can also use 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract, but we splurged for the bean, so I can’t vouch for flavor with the extract)
  • 3-inch section of fresh ginger (cut into pieces)
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 whole star anise pods
  • 1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon honey
vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom pods, star anise, black peppercorns, orange zest
cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean, cloves, cardamom pods, star anise, black peppercorns, orange zest

Step 1: Add water and sugar to a medium-sized sauce pan and bring to a boil.

Step 2: While waiting for your sugar-water mixture to boil prepare your other ingredients. Remove tags from the tea bags, break the cinnamon sticks in half, grind the nutmeg, zest the orange, break the vanilla bean in half, and cut the fresh ginger into pieces.

You don't actually have to use freshly grated nutmeg, but tiny nutmeg graters are super fun.
You could use pre-ground nutmeg instead of grating it yourself, but tiny nutmeg graters are both adorable and fun!

Step Three: Once your sugar-water mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer.

Step Four: Add all of the ingredients to the saucepan except the honey, and let simmer for 20 minutes.

It doesn't look particularly appetizing, but it smells divine!
It may not look appetizing, but it smells divine!

Step Five: Strain the ingredients out of the saucepan so you’re left with only liquid.

Step Six: Add the tablespoon of honey, and stir.

Step Seven: Allow the concentrate to cool before storing it in a jar and placing it in your refrigerator.

chai concentrate cooling
chai concentrate cooling

To Serve:

This is a chai concentrate, which means you don’t want to drink the beverage as is. You can taste it, like E and I did, but it’s going to be very spicy and caffeinated. You’re better off mixing it with milk (2 parts milk to 1 part chai concentrate) and then heating it in the microwave for a warm chai latte or adding ice for a cold chai latte. If you want the mixture spicier, use more concentrate, for less spice, add more milk. You can, of course, use soy or almond milk, or just plain old water.

This recipe will make four or five drinks depending on your spice preference, should be kept refrigerated, and should be used within a week.

If you want a real latte, you can foam some milk on top with a milk frother (or a french press) like E and I did. Don’t forget the cinnamon.

My favorite part about this homemade chai concentrate is how much the individual spice flavors actually come out in the final drink. You can buy chai concentrates at the store, but they taste more processed and less complex than this homemade version. Plus, when you take the time to make any food or beverage yourself, you have the ability to adjust the recipe to your personal preference. If you hate cloves, take them out. If you love ginger, add more fresh ginger (which makes a delicious, healthful tea all by itself). Feel free to experiment!

What are you drinking today?

Emma Holliday is well-traveled. After 5 years in Boston, she and her husband upended their lives to move to Berlin where she is currently writing a (funny) book about travel and grief and attempting to learn German.


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