Having a homemade chai concentrate on hand means you can easily take care of your chai latte cravings whenever they hit. This spiced, fragrant black tea concentrate takes twenty minutes to make and yields about 8 servings of chai, whether you want hot chai lattes or an Iced Dirty Chai Latte.
What is chai?
If you've never had chai, let me explain. Masala chai is an Indian beverage made with spiced, milky black tea. Chai is made with whole spices which are crushed, toasted, and simmered, which gives the tea a fragrant, bold, and cozy taste.
Since being popularized around the globe, the beverage name has been shortened to simply Chai. In coffee shops, you'll find Chai Lattes on the menu to indicate that the chai concentrate or syrup is blended with foamed milk for a frothy drink. Some businesses even sell a 'chai tea latte' although the word Chai itself translates to 'tea' in Hindi.
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Note: I'm not from India so my recipe and technique may not be authentic, but I can tell you this recipe is easy and delicious and if you're looking to recreate a coffee shop chai then this recipe is for you.
What is chai concentrate?
Chai concentrate is a premade, concentrated mix of whole, toasted and simmered spices and black tea. My chai recipe makes 8 servings and can be mixed in a 1:1 ratio with water or milk, to make either cold or hot chai drinks.
Why you should make a chai concentrate
Making chai from scratch involves toasting whole spices and then simmering them to extract their flavors.
It takes some time and you'll need to buy quite a few different whole spices. So if you're buying whole spices why not buy a lot? Buying ingredients in bulk is usually the cheapest and I find a lot of my whole spices at Lucky's, a grocery store in a nearby city that sells a huge variety of Asian ingredients.
If you just want to try this recipe out and don't want to commit to large bags of whole spices then a store like Bulk Barn is great for recipes like this because they sell whole spices by weight, so if you only want to buy 2 anise stars, you can.
It's convenient and budget-friendly to make your own chai concentrate because you only have to make it every 8-10 drinks instead of for each drink. Also, I haven't figured out how to divide an allspice berry so I may as well just drink more chai, right?
How to use chai concentrate
You can use chai concentrate in combination with hot or cold water, or hot, cold, or frothed milk to make drinks like Iced Chai Lattes, the classic Chai Latte, or you can add a shot of espresso and have a hot or Iced Dirty Chai Latte.
About the ingredients for this recipe. See the recipe card below for exact amounts.
- fresh ingredients: you'll need about a two-inch piece of ginger, sliced. I haven't tried this with ground ginger.
- spices: you'll need a variety of whole spices for this recipe. Find them in packages at your local Asian Grocery store or try stores like Bulk Barn where you can buy smaller quantities to try out different recipes. For this recipe, you'll need cinnamon sticks, star anise, whole cloves, green cardamom pods, allspice berries, black peppercorns, and a nutmeg seed to freshly grate. Traditionally the two dominant flavors are ginger and cardamom but you can add more of whatever you like, like cinnamon sticks.
- sweetener: I sweeten my chai concentrate just a bit, and I use brown sugar. You can use white sugar or maple syrup or even omit the sweetener and add it to taste in each beverage as you serve it.
- the tea: Assam tea is the type of black tea typical of chai - it's grown in the Assam region of India (a state in the northeastern area). I use English Breakfast tea bags or Orange Pekoe tea bags for my concentrate.
- slice the ginger and smash it up a bit to help release flavor
- gently crush the cardamom pods with a wooden spoon, pestle and mortar, or something similar to help release flavor
- count out the whole spices
- set a mesh strainer over a bowl
To make chai concentrate from scratch you'll toast and then simmer whole spices to extract their flavors before combining them with black tea to create a richly spiced and aromatic beverage concentrate.
Add the spices to a large pot over medium heat and toast for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally so the spices don't burn. This helps bring out their flavors.
Add 5 cups of water to the pan and bring to a boil.
Grate in the nutmeg.
Add the brown sugar.
Stir everything together and let simmer for 15 minutes. Toasting or simmering the spices too long can lead to a bitter tea.
Turn the heat off and add the tea bags. Let them steep for 5 minutes. Steeping tea too long can release extra tannins and result in a bitter tea.
Stir in the vanilla extract. Doing this at the end, off of the heat allows for more flavor.
Carefully scoop out the whole spices and the tea bags. Be careful not to squeeze the tea bags as this releases extra tannins and makes your tea bitter!
Discard the tea bags and spices and then strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. The concentrate is now ready to use - see below for ideas on how to use this concentrate.
If not used immediately, store it in the fridge.
RECIPE TIP: Follow these three tips to ensure your tea is not bitter. 1. Only toast the spices for a few minutes and stir often, be careful not to burn them. 2. Only steep the tea for 5 minutes or so, steeping tea longer can make it bitter. 3. Don't squeeze the tea bags, this can release extra tannins and turn it bitter.
✔ This recipe is vegetarian and vegan as written.
> Don't like cloves? Omit a spice you don't like or add less of it.
> Instead of brown sugar, you can try white sugar, maple syrup, or agave syrup.
To store it, you can use any jar, glass, or bowl you prefer. I like mason jars or pretty little jars with flip stoppers on the top which are especially nice if you're giving a gift.
Store the concentrate in a jug or jar in the fridge for about a week.
Just as with simple syrups, if you notice mold on the top, discard it immediately.
Tips + FAQs
Homemade chai concentrate lasts for about a week or so in the fridge. Any longer than that and it doesn't taste as fresh.
Homemade chai concentrate will have caffeine if the tea you use is caffeinated. Nothing else in the recipe contains caffeine, so use caffeine-free tea for a caffeine-free chai concentrate.
- Wash, slice, and lightly pound the ginger to open it up a bit.
- Crush the cardamom pods to open them up a bit.
- Dry toast spices over medium heat for about 3 minutes. They will smell wonderfully fregrant.
- Add water and brown sugar. Grate in the nutmeg. Bring it to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Add the tea bags and steep for 5 minutes.
- Remove tea bags without squeezing them and scoop out the whole spices. Strain the mixture.
- Add the vanilla and whisk well. Use right away or pour into a jar to keep in the fridge.
- Add the concentrate 1:1 to hot or cold water or milk. Try using frothed milk for a latte.
Nutritional information is an estimate. Values vary based on products used.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you.
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