experiments with chai

One of the perks of going to school in the middle of nowhere in the mountains is that we have an entire academic term dedicated to skiing.

Just kidding.

We do, however, have an academic term that spans the month of January, during which we take only one class. This means that there is a lot of time for skiing. But we still have class. While they can be, the classes offered during this term aren’t always classical academic courses, which allows us to explore things that we ordinarily wouldn’t have the opportunity to do. One course this year was on producing radio documentaries. Think NPR stories. A friend and I attended the presentation of these projects a few days ago. All of the students did an awesome job — the stories ranged from interviews of local characters to personal struggles and triumphs to answering questions the students had. The first story, though, was my favorite.

It was about tea.

More specifically, it was about the founder of the tea house in town. We’ve all walked by the small storefront a hundred times, but few of us ever actually stop to go inside. The author of this documentary was curious, so he did go inside. And he asked questions about who ran the shop and how they got to where they were.

It was a very long, interesting journey.

But one part stuck out to me. The now-owner of the tea shop was sharing a story about his travels in Tibet. He and his friend were hiking. As evening approached, they decided to head out of the village they were in and on to the next one before resting for the night. When they finally arrived at the next village, which was much farther than they had anticipated, it was dark and they were cold. A family took them in for the night and, of course, served them chai. He said that the daughter, who couldn’t have been more than 6 years old, made the tea for everyone, adding sugar to his tea because she knew that Americans like sugar. To her parent’s tea though, she added a little salt.

Salt???

That could be good.

So today, I tried it. Plain chai is my typical afternoon pick-me-up, but today seemed like a good day to add something extra. Not just salt though. I added a little frothy almond milk as well. Don’t have a way to froth almond milk? Yes, you do. All you need is a jar. I fill a jar about halfway with almond milk, seal it and then shake vigorously for about a minute. This results in a nice layer of foam that you can scoop out and add to the top of your chai tea. And I’m a foam fiend. One of my most cherished childhood memories is of my dad trying to make a latte for my  mom on mother’s day and feeding me foam by the spoonful because he’d frothed too much milk.

Anyways, to make a delicious chai pick-me-up:

Steep 2 bags of your favorite chai according to the instructions in about 10 oz of water (about 10 minutes of steeping seems to do the trick for getting maximum flavor without tasting over-steeped).

Add a pinch of sea salt and stir until dissolved. Then pour about 2 oz of almond milk (I like using it cold so that it cools the tea to a drinkable temperature — it also froths better when cold) into the tea and scoop as much foam as you’d like on top. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of warm honey on top and enjoy, preferably with a good book within the vicinity of a fire or candle.

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Actually, sit there and drink your chai for a moment distracted. Pay attention. Taste how the salt really makes the spices pop out against the creamy background. I like to put a little shard of chocolate in my mouth and then take a sip of chai, letting it melt the chocolate. It brought out some very tobacco-y notes in the chocolate I had on hand today. But perhaps the flavors will be different when you try it.

It’s about 19 degrees but feels way colder…they say that snow should be arriving shortly. Thank goodness. I’ve been wanting to try out my new sled!

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2 thoughts on “experiments with chai

  1. Okay, I am completely ready to try my chai with a pinch of sea salt. (I have some alder smoked salt also – I think that could bring out some interesting flavours, as well.) And your slip of chocolate first move is pure genius. Genius, I tell you.

    Your storytelling is what gives this warmth and charm – that and your ability to be positive no matter what.

  2. The alder smoked salt would be delicious…it would be fun to have a tasting with different salts! and thank you so much for your support! please share this with anyone you think might benefit from it or find it interesting!

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