Spiced Comfort Drink for a Cold Day
Ah, those beautiful fall days! It’s the absolute best riding weather of the year! Sometimes the weather is a little unpredictable or we stay out longer than we intended and before you know it, the weather has turned on us and it is a cold ride home. After some rides my friends and I get so cold, we use hair dryers in an effort to warm our toes! It’s days like this that you want something warming to take off the chill and yet, delicious enough to celebrate the day! You may have tried a Chai Latte at your local coffee shop, but it is so easy (and much less expensive) to make at home! It can be slowly heating while you take a quick shower and put on some dry clothes!
Chai tea is made up mostly of spices, some of which are spices that were, according to tradition, best for warming you up during cold weather. Chai tea spice blends vary across India and many families have their own blends. It is truly an easy thing to customize according to your taste. You can make your own spice blend now, store in an airtight container and keep it handy all winter so you can easily make your own Chai Latte. This recipe is essentially for a hot spiced milk drink that is mixed with tea (herbal, black or green.) Just one buying tip: try to get your spices at a place which sells in bulk…or if you have one near you, World Market has reasonably priced spices.
Chai Tea Spice Blend
Start with these essential spices:
- 5 tablespoons green cardamom pods
- 2 tablespoons whole cloves
- Cinnamon sticks – about 6-8 sticks, 2” long each
Mix in these spices, but feel free to tweak as desired: Ginger & black pepper are considered appropriate for cold weather as they are “warming spices.”
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 2 whole star anise
- 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns (Or just grind with pepper grinder)
- 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon whole allspice
Add after the toasting: add 1-1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
Combine all of the ingredients except the ginger in a non-stick ungreased heavy skillet. Over low to medium heat, toast the spices lightly for about 3 minutes, until fragrant.
Add the ginger and blend. Now you have to pound everything briefly, just enough to crush the spices coarsely. A mortar and pestle are ideal for this, but you can do it in a spice/coffee grinder, or put the spices in a plastic bag and pound with a mallet or rolling pin. Transfer to an airtight container such as a small glass jar where they’ll keep nicely for about 4 months in your cupboard.
*Other additions to your blend can include: dried orange or lemon peel, fennel, nutmeg. A touch of vanilla or almond flavoring is also nice and can be added to the brewed tea.
Directions for Brewing Chai Tea:
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Chai Spice Mix
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar or honey (more or less according to taste)
- 1 bag of tea (your choice–see below)*
Combine milk, water, Chai spice mix and brown sugar or honey to taste and your preferred bag of tea in a saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and then turn the heat down to the tiniest flame and continue to heat at a low simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the spices and tea bag with a strainer and discard.
If you like it foamy, use a whisk to whip the mixture until frothy before serving. Sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon if desired.
*Teas that go well with this include chamomile, orange or spicy herbal blends as well as (the traditionally Khasmiri) green tea. My favorite herbal tea to blend with this is Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice which is essentially an herbal Chai tea made with chicory, carob and of course, spices.
Health Benefits of Spices
Spices have many health benefits as well. Many have vitamins, minerals and other nutritional compounds. It isn’t by accident that they have been a part of folk medicine for centuries.
Cardamom: This exotic spice contains many plant derived chemical compounds that are known to have anti-oxidant, disease preventing and health promoting properties. Cardamom is a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Potassium in an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. It is also an excellent source of manganese and iron.
Cloves: Cloves have properties which are known to have antioxidant, anti-septic, local anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, rubefacient (warming and soothing) benefits. This spice is a good source of vitamin-K, vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin (vitamin B-1), vitamin-C and riboflavin.
Cinnamon: This is truly an amazing spice. It is an antioxidant powerhouse: there is as many antioxidants in 1 teaspoon of cinnamon as in a cup of pomegranate juice or a half cup of blueberries. It is also rich in polyphenols which act like insulin in our body and can help regulate blood sugar levels. It can help stop yeast infections and lower blood pressure. I could go on, but check out this link about 10 health benefits of cinnamon.
Ginger: Ginger has been used for centuries as a remedy for a variety of conditions, most especially, soothing stomach distress and helping fight off colds. Modern medicine is discovering its benefits in easing indigestion and reducing stomach pain and nausea. Studies are suggesting that gingerol (the active ingredient) may work like an anti-inflammatory drug. Research indicates that ginger may offer pain relief for everything from arthritis to nausea and migraines. Among other great benefits, ginger has been found to have some anti-viral properties.
Coriander: Around the world, coriander has been used as an anti-inflammatory and more recently to help fight off diabetes and cholesterol. It contains many plant derived chemical compounds that are known to have anti-oxidant, disease preventing and health promoting properties. It includes healthful fatty acids, essential oils, is surprisingly high in vitamin C.
Anise: Teas made with anise have been the remdy for coughs or cold or even stomach aches for many, many years. The seeds are an excellent source of many essential B-complex vitamins such as pyridoxine, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin. Pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) helps increase GABA neuro-chemical levels in the brain. The spicy seeds are great source of minerals like calcium, iron,copper, potassium, manganese zinc and magnesium. Potassium in an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure.
Allspice: When I was a child, I thought allspice was a blend of spices, but it is a spice in its own right and was so named because its taste resembled a spice blend. Traditionally, allspice has been used for its warming and soothing properties. It has been found to help with digestion as well. In recent studies, allspice oil has been used with other ingredients to help treat infections including E. Coli and Salmonella. The spice is enriched with good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese,iron, copper, selenium, and magnesium and also contains very good amounts of vitamin-A, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), riboflavin,niacin and vitamin-C.
Black pepper: Pepper has been used since ancient times as an anti-inflammatory and for soothing the digestive track. It is composed of many health essential oils and a good amount of minerals including: potassium, calcium, zinc, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Peppercorns are rich source of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin A & C.