After a hard day sometimes you just need some good old fashioned comfort, and you need it NOW. Problem is, comfort usually takes time and on days like that I’m not into delayed gratification. So what I need is a little kitchen magic and some make-ahead planning.
My crock pot is the closest thing I have to a magic cauldron. I can make the most wonderful concoctions in it with almost no effort and I use it often, especially for that heavenly elixir, chai tea. Frankly, I’m too cheap to buy the stuff in a box or bottle, and I tried the homemade instant mix but I don’t like the idea of coffee creamer (I mean what IS that stuff anyway?). For me, it’s not just about how a dish looks, it’s also about how it’s made and what kind of ingredients go into making it yummy. Now, I love chai, hot, cold, with or without milk. It’s delicious, comforting and a special way to unwind after a busy day. The trouble is I want my comfort now and not half an hour from now after I’ve assembled all the ingredients, found that I’m completely out of cinnamon sticks, gone to the store, come back, steeped the tea and spices and poured out that first cup. No, I want it fast, easy and ready to use. With a little research and a few of my own contributions, here is my version of Chai Tea Concentrate. There are no actual rules here, so use the spices you like. So drag out that slow cooker and let’s make some comfort in a cup.
Chai Tea Concentrate
Makes slightly less than 2 quarts
- 8 cups water
- 8 individual tea bags (black or green)
- 1 cup sugar or 3/4 cup honey or brown rice syrup (I use half regular sugar and half light brown sugar) – you can always add more to taste
- 6 slices (rounds) fresh ginger
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 6 allspice berries
- 6 whole cloves
- 2 star anise
- 8 cardamom seeds (they’re tiny but strong)
- 6-8 peppercorns
- 1 nutmeg, or 1 1/2 teaspoons of grated nutmeg
- Peel from one fresh orange
- 1/2 teaspoon dried orange peel powder (you could substitute additional fresh orange peel or orange zest)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried lemon peel powder (you could substitute 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Pour the water into the crock pot, add sugar and stir to dissolve. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the tea bags, and all of the remaining ingredients except the vanilla.
Turn off the heat and let cool slightly, then add the vanilla.
When the concentrate is completely cooled, strain and store in the refrigerator in a glass container.