You've probably had chai, before. Bitter, bland with a mild scent of allspice, it's truly appalling stuff as imagined by the likes of Starbucks or steeped out of the little, flavourless teabags of Bigelow. This is not that chai.
No, this chai recipe was smuggled out of an Indian restaurant in the Bay area of California, then handwritten by a close friend who guarded it for years. For years, she shared the chai with us when we visited, and we would gulp it greedily. Indeed, some of my fondest memories of Houston are of sitting in her kitchen while talking and mainlining chai. This is good stuff, bright, sweet and complex. It's simply delicious.
When we left Houston, we begged the recipe from here. And I present it here:
4 C whole milk
2 C water
3 tbsp sliced ginger (or ½ tbsp powder)
2 tbsp mashed green cardamom pods + 2 shakes cardamom powder
1 ½ tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp lemongrass
½ tsp fresh black pepper
1 ½ tsp vanilla
4 tsp Assam looseleaf tea
9 heaping tsp sugar
Prepare the spices.
Mix them with the milk and water and bring to a light boil. Add the tea, and boil gently for two minutes. Now strain out the spices. (Note, leaving it to settle for a few minutes after sieving is useful to get some of the spices to settle out, as a slight sludge will form).
Add the sugar and vanilla, and stir in. Serve in large mugs. Huge, even. Large servings are completely appropriate here. And anything you don't drink while hot, will be great over ice.