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How do you brew Chai?

Good morning all (or good afternoon, or good evening, depending on where you are).

The weather here finally broke! Yay!

We just got our Spice Route Chai from Village Tea Company (smells great, very nicely designed tea container) and we are going to try brewing it up today (btw, its in ‘leaf pouches’). I have only made Chai once, and the way I made it differs from what the directions of the tea cylinder says: “Bring ½ cup fresh water and ½ cup milk together to a boil, allow to cool slightly, then cascade over … steep 5 minutes and enjoy!” Boil the milk? The one time I did it, I just boiled the water, and we added the milk later.

(UPDATE)
I searched the discussion list, and I found a few things about cold brewing chai, but we want to hot brew it.

I just did a search on Google: “how do you brew chai” and the second and third hits are fellow Steepsterites! I really like LiberTEAS directions: they are very detailed (http://liberteas.blogspot.com/2009/01/how-to-brew-chai-tea.html). She does a great job explaining why she does what she does at every step. Thank you LiberTEAS!

She doesn’t boil the milk. Yet, I’m still curious what your experiences are. Can anyone tell me any possible advantages to boiling the milk with the water?
(UPDATE)

Any feedback on the best way to brew Chai?

6 Replies
SimplyJenW said

First, I will preface by saying that I am a newbie to chai, myself. However, I am a recent convert to boiling the milk and water together along with the mix from the outset. I simmer for about 5 minutes and then strain. It makes a very rich chai, in my opinion, as everything has ample time to meld tegether like it belongs there, rather than being added as an afterthought. (Before, I would brew the chai at a more concentrated water to tea ratio and then add milk. The biggest problem with my previous method…my chai was cold and then I would have to heat it up in the microwave. And the milk still tasted like it was added rather than an integral part of the drink, if that makes sense at all!) I think the suggested method sounds pretty good.

WOW! I love your response! I really like that you told me WHY you add milk at the outset. I judge you gave a great intuitive guess/speculation on why adding it first can be advantageous: “… ample time to meld tegether like it belongs there, rather than being added as an afterthought.” Very well put. And the part about the chai cooling off after adding cold milk makes sense too (that is, if you want it hot, which we do). This all totally makes sense to me. I think we will try it that way!

Thank you @SimplyJenW!

Report on making Chai:

First steeping: 3 minutes. Added Stevia. I went with the containers instructions: taking the half water half skim milk mixture to a boil. I made sure to stir it while heating it so as not to scald the milk. I also watched it closely so as not to over boil it (I don’t think that would be good for the milk). … Holy cow, I can’t believe how quickly it boiled over! I stepped away for just a second, and whoosh! What a mess! Not a big deal, though. Yum! We both like it this way! Very full feel in the mouth.

I did a second steeping: 4 minutes. This time I watched the milk/water mixture more closely while heating. Not long after bubbles started forming around the edge of my pan froth started forming on the top. I continued to stir it and about ten seconds or so later, it started into the beginnings of a rolling boil (I think that’s what you call it), and I immediately turned it off, and poured it. Added vanilla sugar this time. Still tasty. Plan on trying one more steeping at 5-6 minutes.

Hooray for cooler weather!

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teataku said

I wish we had cooler weather here, because I would gladly love to have an excuse to make chai every day. Not that chai can’t be enjoyed just any old time. :)

I have been a chai fan for many many years, but I’ve never tried steeping my chai in a boiling mixture of water and milk (I’ve always done just water, with adding milk in afterward). I suppose I’ve always associated using milk as the primary steeping medium with the chai syrup you can get in the supermarkets (the stuff that Starbuck’s uses), because that is really the only place I’ve ever seen those instructions. However, after seeing this thread, I read up a little on the history of chai, and steeping it in milk is how the street vendors in India have been doing it for quite some time now.

Long story short, after reading this and reading up on chai-lore, next time I make chai, I’ll try the milk steeping technique. I’ll let you know what I think!

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Uniquity said

Initially, I treated chai as black tea and added no milk (I rarely do). A few times I have tried it more ‘traditionally’ (stove top boil of water and milk, then add tea) but I frequently found it “too milky” (I loathe the taste of milk) and have reverted to either treating it as black tea or using VERY LITTLE milk. Of course, that’s a personal issue with milk, sadly.

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slygirl said

I’m lactose intolerant so I try not to add too much milk when I make chai. I can handle maybe 1/4 cup without adverse effects. I like my chai strong, with the milk being an accent rather than having the chai taste of milk (if that makes sense).

In pot, bring 1-2 cups of filtered water to a boil. Add cinnamon stick (1-2), crushed cardamom, 6-8 peppercorns, and a couple of slices of fresh ginger. If you have a well-stocked spice cabinet, you can add fennel seeds and anise as well. I think the secret ingredient is the fresh ginger; dried or crystallized ginger will work in a pinch, but it’s not the same. Simmer about 5-8 minutes. Add tea and milk. At this point you can turn off the burner and let it steep for 4-5 minutes. Strain and add sweetner. I prefer honey for a mild taste or brown sugar for a more molasses-like flavor.

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