Chai Tea Concentrate

Updated: Nov 13


4 1-quart canning jars of chai tea concentrate
Chai tea concentrate

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I know I've been crap at keeping up with this blog. As it turns out, I like MAKING THINGS more than I like blogging about the things I make. I love doing DIY projects, but I don't always love writing about them because I get caught up with feeling like I need to have gorgeous photos to accompany the posts. I end up posting more on my personal @mollycolleen Insta than my @makersmolly Insta as a result. I'm challenging myself to be less of a perfectionist about it, and trying to post more here, regardless of the photo quality. So I wanted to share a bit about what I've been up to lately!


Any other chai fans here? I'd forgotten how much I love chai, until I was in the Bay Area last month and a friend asked if they could bring me something from a coffeeshop. I became a little obsessed with it after that. When my wife and I got back to Seattle, I bought some Oregon Chai concentrate and a milk frother, and started making myself a chai each morning. And okay, some evenings, too!


Soon I decided to investigate making my own chai concentrate. I did some research into recipes, and ended up combined a couple of the ones I liked best. I also looked up how to can tea in a water bath, just to make sure there was nothing special or different from what I do when I make jams. (There's not.)


I primarily used a recipe from the Sweet Steep Tea Blog. The amount of sugar called for in the Sweet Steep recipe seemed extreme to me, so I cut it by about half. In retrospect I think they were right. My recipe reflects the full amount of sugar called for. I think it's fine to leave it out if you're going to add your own sugar anyway, or if you're trying to avoid sugar generally. But for me, it definitely needs the sugar in the base batch. I also reduced the amount of ginger in my recipe. I like ginger, but the Sweet Steep recipe called for a bit more than my personal taste. My recipe calls for 1/4 c, but if you like a spicier flavor, do 1/3 c instead.


It's definitely a cost-saving measure, though that wasn't the primary draw for me; I mostly like the satisfaction of consuming things that I have made myself. But, if you're wanting to do this to save some pennies, here's how it breaks down:

  • $5* - 16oz Vanilla Chai Starbucks Latte (10 minutes!)

  • $4* - 1qt Oregon Chai concentrate (1 week, if consuming one 16oz drink daily)

  • $10-15* - Chai spice ingredients (obviously this depends on how much you buy, but this is my approximation for ~1 month of DIY chai concentrate ingredients, which should make up to 4qt of concentrate.)

*These costs are "ish" because costs obviously depend on where you live, and the quality of ingredients you are able to purchase. I bought most of my ingredients from PCC Community Markets here in the Seattle area because they have organic bulk spices, but I highly recommend Penzey's if you can't get some of the specialized ingredients (like cardamom pods) locally. That will also drive up the cost, unfortunately.


Recommendations


Use a cheesecloth bag to collect the spice silt. Even after straining the chai concentrate through a mesh strainer, there was about 1/4" of spice silt at the bottom of the canned jars. I recommend getting a brew bag that fits in your boiling pot. I have this Cuisinart pot. The steamer insert allows me to infuse the water with my chai spices, and then quickly remove them after the tea has steeped for 5 minutes (any longer than that and the tea turns bitter.) After that, I can take a bit of time to line one of my other big pots or bowls with a brew bag or muslin cover, which will catch the spice silt better than a mesh strainer.


Cut the concentrate with water when making your tea. The concentrate itself is pretty strong, and I like my chai a little more mild. When I make my chai with my DIY concentrate, I use 1:1 concentrate and water for the chai base, and then 1:1 of the chai base to milk. I'm a bit of a wimp, though, and I'm not a huge fan of caffeine, so you may want to dial the concentration up or down depending on how caffeinated you want to be. I suspect that the store-bought concentrates are watered down, after tasting the difference between the Oregon Chai concentrate and my homemade one.


Decide how much concentrate you want to make. This recipe reflects 1 batch of concentrate, which makes about 1 qt. This lasts me approximately two weeks. I prefer to make larger batches so that I don't have to do it again soon, so I quadruple this recipe. Since the concentrate will be sitting around for a couple of months, I prepare my jars in a water bath like I do for canning jams and preserves. This ensures that they're shelf-stable and won't go bad before I drink them. After I open a new jar, I put it in the fridge.


Chai Tea Concentrate

Course: Beverage

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15-20 minutes

Total Time: About an hour

Yield: 1 qt


INGREDIENTS

  • 5 cups water

  • 2-3 star anise

  • 12 whole cloves

  • 8 green cardamom pods

  • 1 Tbsp black peppercorns

  • 1/2 tsp allspice

  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds (optional)

  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1/4 cup chopped ginger root

  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1 Tbsp vanilla extract) (optional)

  • 3-4 Tbsp loose Celyon black tea

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

DIRECTIONS

  1. Fill a large pot with 5 cups of water, and set aside.

  2. Crush whole spices (anise, cloves, cardamom pods, peppercorns, allspice, and fennel) using a mortar + pestle. A course grind is all that's needed to release the oils in the spices.

  3. Add the cinnamon sticks and ground nutmeg to a pan with the crushed spices, and toast over low heat for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Watch carefully so the spices do not burn.

  4. Add the toasted spices to the water.

  5. Roughly chop ginger root and add to the pot with the spices.

  6. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise, press the sides open, scrape out the seed, and add both the seeds and the whole pod to the pot with the spices. (Can substitute with 1 Tbsp vanilla extract if you don't have vanilla beans, but do this later when adding the sugars.)

  7. Bring the water to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat and simmer the spices in the water for 5-10 minutes.

  8. After the spices have simmered, return mixture to a boil and then remove from heat.

  9. Stir in the loose tea, and let steep for 3-5 minutes. DO NOT OVER-STEEP THE TEA! Black tea becomes bitter when over-steeped.

  10. As soon as the tea has finished steeping, immediately pour it through a mesh strainer or colander into a large bowl, pitcher, or another pot. (If using a brew bag or muslin cover, pour the concentrate through the brew bag to catch the spice silt after the initial pour to remove the tea.)

  11. While the concentrate is warm, add your sweeteners (sugars, honey, maple syrup), and stir to dissolve. (Add vanilla extract if using.)

  12. Prepare the container where you plan to store the concentrate, and fill the container with your chai concentrate.

  13. Allow concentrate to cool down to room temperature before storing in the refrigerator.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

To make a chai latte, add 1 part concentrate to 1 part water to make your chai base. For an iced chai latte, pour 1 part chai base to a cup with ice, and add 1 part milk. For a hot chai latte, warm the chai base. In a separate container, warm your milk. Milk may be frothed or steamed, to your preference. The type of milk may be adjusted to your dietary preferences.