Chai. I thought it was some exotic African drink. Later I found that the word means simply "tea." In other parts of the world, whole nations drink this creamy, sweet, spiced black tea, all the time.
But outside a Somali household, I had no idea where to find this liquor of the gods in 2005, so I forgot about it until I moved to Massachusetts, and my dear friend Annie re-introduced me to chai. It was the salvation of my sanity on many an early, icy morning before a classroom of students. A huge mug of Tazo chai with raw sugar and half-and-half. I must have drunk barrels of the stuff that winter.
Yes, I started with Tazo chai, and it's still my favorite:
I've also tried Stash chai:
Yesterday, I noticed that Celestial Seasonings is now also offering chai:
I've always been more of a Twinings girl, myself. I like a tea company that still sells metal tins of loose tea; they seem serious about their beverages. So I drifted down to the Twinings offerings, and low-and-behold, they now have chai also. Everybody is making chai!
I made a nice warm pot of chai last night, complete with raw sugar and cream. It was lovely. But ... it wasn't quite as good as Tazo, in my opinion. Perhaps it's just that Tazo was the the chai I "cut my teeth" on back in Massachusetts. I don't know, but nothing else tastes quite the same. This indicates that the making of chai is a tricky, complex process. I looked up chai recipes online, and found this website. Very nice website. And for goodness sake, look at this chai recipe:
Boil 5 minutes, then steep 10 minutes:
1 Tbsp fennel or anise seedAdd, bring to a boil, and simmer 5 minutes:
6 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1/4" ginger root, sliced thin
1/4 tsp black pepper corns
2 bay leaves
7 Cups water
2 Tbsp Darjeeling tea
6 Tbsp honey or brown sugar
1 Cup milk
I would never make that recipe because I loathe the flavor of anise and fennel. But that's quite a "witch's brew," as they say. The front of the Twinings box says that they use cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and ginger as their spices. Personally, I'd stick to those four.
And, of course, when I mentioned all this to Adam, his first comment was a confident, "Well, we can make that at home!" He would think that.