So far, it has been a beautiful summer. We have filled the days with getting to know Amos and ourselves as parents and they are speeding by. At the moment he is napping, his normally wiggly body barely moving with each breath. I am sitting at the kitchen table gazing through the window screen at the familiar view that is decked out in all the greens of summer. The air is sweet and warm and gentle. After several weeks of settling in to this new life it is as if nothing and everything has changed.
I’ve spent very little time in the kitchen lately, hardly even sitting in my favorite spot at this table. Ray and I have taken turns cooking and we’ve been eating our way through the stores in the freezer. I am ready to do more in the kitchen soon. Fortunately this is the best time of year to just throw together meals from whatever we’ve gotten at the farmers market and good local produce is, of course, abundant.
I love the clear skies, warm air and plenty of cool breezes that summer brings us. We’ve been lucky that the really hot spells have only lasted for a few days at a time. Even so, this is the summer that we’ve fortified ourselves, again and again, with plenty of cold drinks. There is iced coffee for Ray and we stocked up on lime- and lemonade which is so satisfying on those sweltering days. I’ve been taking the empty juice bottles, filling them with water and stashing them in the fridge so we can always have cold water to keep us hydrated and refreshed.
I find that on a hot afternoon a cold sweet drink can be a great pick-me-up. An iced chai is my summer drink treat of choice (and the occasional milk shake or root beer float). As nice as it is to step into an air conditioned coffee shop to buy one, it was about time for me to try making chai concentrate myself. Sweetened and spiced to my taste, it is even more refreshing to have the perfect iced chai ready to pour any time.
I like my chai spicy and not too sweet. Everything in this recipe can be adjusted to your taste but this is a good place to start. I used green tea since I couldn’t find a decaffeinated black tea and I was very happy with the way it worked, but black tea would be more traditional. The larger quantity of sugar will make a tea that is very sweet, I prefer mine with the smaller amount.
4 1/2 cups water
8 bags of green or black tea
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise pods
8 cardamom pods
10 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 inch fresh ginger, chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla (or one vanilla bean pod that has already been scraped of its seeds)
1/2-3/4 cup sugar
In a medium sauce pan, bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the tea bags, cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, ginger, nutmeg and vanilla bean pod (if using vanilla extract, add once the water has cooled). After 5 minutes, remove the tea bags and stir in the sugar until it has dissolved. Let the spices steep until the water is cool. Strain out the spices and store in the refrigerator.
To serve mix one part chai concentrate with one part milk of your choice. Heat or enjoy over ice.
Freeze some of your chai concentrate in ice cube trays to make this extra icy chai. A scoop of vanilla ice cream in this shake would be really really good.
4 chai ice cubes
1/2 cup chai concentrate
1/2 cup milk
Put everything in the blender and blend until smooth and icy.