Chai Tea Spice Blend

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We just love Indian Chai tea. Perfect for a cold winter day.

Cardamom Pods, cloves, black peppercorns and cinnamon sticks

Cardamom Pods, cloves, black peppercorns and cinnamon sticks

It was not until today, looking on the internet for the origins of the word CHAI, that I learned Indian hot chai tea, infused with all its lovely aromatic spices, actually gets its name from the Persian word for tea, CHAI (pronunced in Iran with second syllable stressed CHA EEEEEE ) Ya learn something everyday!

Having lived in Tehran, Iran for a couple of years when I was 10-12 years old, I just loved drinking their unspiced plain hot tea from the little 2 tall sipping glasses they serve tea in there. It always reminded me of my childhood days, playing house and having tea parties with my dolls. In Iran, sugar was sold in huge solid blocks and they would just hammer off chunks, pop a piece into their mouths and sip the hot tea right through that sugar cube. At age 10, what fun! Pure sugar in your mouth! What can I say? My views on sugar sure have changed. I very quickly learned considerable Pharci language at age 10, mostly from our maid, Fatimeh, who spoke little English. When we would pass a tea shop in the bazaar she would make a sipping gesture and ask: Chai meekhawheed? (sp?) which I quickly figured out meant Do you want some tea? I learned the proper response in no-time flat Adeh, chai meekhawham (sp?), Yes, I want some tea!. I also knew in that setting, Id get it served Iranian style, with those fun chunks of rock sugar, something my mother would never allow at home. Wasnt I a naughty little 10 year old? Mom was always worrying about that evil, Mr. Tooth Decay (those old enough, remember him from the Colgate TV commercials in the late 50s?). Moms always over worry, dont they? My teeth havent all fallen out after all! LOL Wonder if Chai tea is served with rock sugar in India? Sorry, I digress with my boring nostalgia trip..

I really avoid commercial spice preparations as much as I can, what with all the extras they add to those prepared mixes, beaucoup salt and sugar. So I decided to take the most common spices I can taste in a cup of chai tea and just make up my own, using equal amounts (roughly) of the likely spices. I quickly learned it needs to be a little top-heavy with cinnamon and doubled that 1 ingredient. The final spice blend, brewed into a 2-cup pot of tea, was DELICIOUS! So I thought Id share my new blend here with my readers.

Im a lazy cook by nature and dont like the nuisance of shelling cardamom seeds from those big pods, so once I saw that Penzeys sells it already shelled, well you know I was on that one like a fly on flypaper! I order already shelled cardamom seeds from Penzeys Spices on-line or their catalog. Therefore, I have no earthly idea how many cardamom pods it will take to yield 1 tsp. seeds, but probably around 10-15? There are about 8-10 little black seeds in the average green cardamom pod.

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slice of fresh ginger root (about 1 tsp.)

6 black peppercorns

10 whole cloves

2 tsp. cinnamon (or 1 3 stick broken up)

1 tsp. cardamom seeds

3/4 tsp. fennel seeds

DIRECTIONS: Place all ingredients in a blender or spice grinder (I use a dedicated cheap coffee grinder for spices) and grind until all is pretty fine. Store in a lidded jar in a dark cabinet or your refrigerator if youre worried about the ginger.To make tea from this spice blend, boil your water in a proper teakettle and add your teabag(s) or loose tea in an infuser (my pot has a built-in infuser that lifts in and out). Add 1 tsp. Chai Spice Blend to the infuser along with your tea for every 2 cups of water/tea you want to serve. Steep for 5 minutes with the lid on and serve in cups with milk or cream and sweetener of your choice.

NUTRITIONAL INFO: Makes about 9 tsp. of spice blend, each teaspoon (amount to brew 2 cups chai tea) contains:

3 calories, 0.1 g fat, 0.75 g carbs, 0.45 g fiber, 0.3 g NET CARBS, < 0.1g protein