Drinking an iced masala chai on a warm spring day is one of my favorite simple delights. Iced chai is exotic and comforting. It invites me to dream of a land far away but the drink has become so familiar it also feels like home.
This iced chai recipe is simple. I often throw it together before work and let it cool in the refrigerator until lunchtime. It’s lightly sweetened with real sugar, spicy, and creamy. It’s a true escape in a glass, and, after you make it once, you’ll never want to buy it out again.
In a saucepan on the stove, heat 6 cups of water to boiling.
As the water warms, add the following ingredients (you do not have to wait until the water is boiling to add):
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns (sub 1 teaspoon ground black pepper if you don’t have peppercorns – but really, just buy the peppercorns)
- 10 whole cloves
- 6 cardamom pods, crushed to crack open
- 1 star anise
- 6 bags of black tea (you don’t have to be fancy – Lipton works just as well as any fancy brand)
- 1/3 cup cane sugar
Bring the whole mess to a boil, then turn down to simmer for 5 minutes. At this point, I usually turn the stove off and leave everything sitting there to cool off for as long as it takes me to go get dressed (maybe 15 minutes).
Pour the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer like this into a bowl. I usually pour from the bowl through a second mesh strainer into a quart glass jar. (I think the second straining removes some of the finer sediment from the spices.) Put the jar in the fridge and leave it until it cools.
To serve, pour over ice. I prefer mine creamy, so I top with a very generous amount of coconut/almond milk creamer from either Califia Farms or So Delicious.
I like to daydream and transport myself from my backyard to a land of tea and spices, imagining the heat and colors of an India I’ve only ever known from books. The image in my mind is of bustling, dusty streets and markets with bags of spices laid out on multi-colored carpets. It’s of majestic temples soaring into the hazy humid air and the sounds of motorcycles and people yelling in languages I’ve never heard. It’s busy city streets and the relative quiet of the waterfront at dawn. It’s looking off into the distance to mountains and taking trains into the jewel green of the jungle. It’s all a dream, of course, and every sip takes me closer.