There are moments in your life when you have something so delicious it stays with you. For me, it was when I had chai. Chai translates to tea and exposure to chai has been a fast explosion over the last decade. However, the chai that blew my mind, was not one found in a coffee shop poured from a rectangular box, it was a much more expensive experience.
After graduation college, I journeyed to Kenya to spend time with my sister who has relocated there when married. My sister and her husband had been called to the mission field in Africa. They devoted eight years to the call, only to be brought home with a tribal war broke out.
My month spent in Kenya was time that opened a new door of perspective. The comforts of a modern life were no longer available, water came from barrels, no internet, nights were pitch dark, little to none refrigerations and so many unknowns. Despite the adjustments, the people added warmth to the situation with their big greetings and desire to show and treat me to their very best items, food being a common theme. The smells and flavors were so robust and incredible. Nothing back home had tasted like this. It was now my mission to discover the markets, explore only as I had seen in National Geographic. I wanted to see the tall towering bowls of ground spices, or walk into the colorful bustling markets bartering for a better price. Sadly, do the remote location and the hard travels from one side of Kenya to another, I settled for a store in the small village. I vividly remember being on a mission to gather star anise. Somehow, I thought it was the most exotic spice I could find to bring home. Looking back now, I just have to laugh because there is not much you can do with star anise, and I purchased a half a pound.
My sister, one day asked if I wanted some tea. In my mind, it’d be a cup of hot water with a tea bag, only to be delightful surprised by what was handed to me next. The steaming hot mug was filled with a creamy aromatic liquid. I was entranced by the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice. I perked up in my seat, and took a small sip. My senses were in overload. This flavors, and creamy silky texture all combining into a symphony . Instantly I was hooked!
Since this trip, Chai and chai spice is a commonly seen on menus. This blend of warming spices offer your food a different profile heightening and mellowing the other flavors around it. I am team chai. Apple and pumpkin pies are made with chai instead of cinnamon. I use it to blend with chilis to create meat rubs, or on grilled fruit like pineapple. The blend I am sharing today, is a recipe I have worked on for the last few years, and it is time to share its arrival.
So this holiday season as you are using cinnamon, maybe think of taking it up a notch and throw in chai instead.
Chai Spice Mix
- 3 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp. ground cardamom
- 1 Tbsp. ground ginger
- 2½ tsp. ground allspice
- 2½ tsp. ground cloves
- 2½ tsp. ground nutmeg
- 6 Tbsp. Turbinado sugar
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- ½ tsp. ground turmeric
- For the Pre-Ground Spice Mix: Mix the spices together and store in an airtight container.Use the Chai Blend anywhere you'd use cinnamon. To make Chai Tea - 1 black tea bag in hot water, with 2 teaspoon of blend, and a splash or two of cream. Adjust the amount based off your preference.