Some time ago I shared my old nettle chai recipe with you. And really, it's good. So good.
But since that time I have continued to tweak and refine the recipe, week after week.
Like so many things, cooking – and yes, simply making tea – is a living process around here. And where that recipe is at now – well, that old version just can't hold a candle to it.
So I jotted down my latest recipe for you. The changes are minor – just four new ingredients. But to drink it is to love it. As in seriously obsessively love it.
It's crazy good.
This newest incarnation of chai is spicy and sassy and sweet and amazing.
And caffeine-free to boot without feeling like something was forgotten. I loved the nettle version I shared with you before, but it always felt just a little too thin to me. I knew the black tea wasn't there. But this version? You won't even miss it.
That being said, you can also throw in up to six black tea bags to make yours with a caffienated kick. If I'm jonsing for caffeine I'll often make the whole pot without, then add a single tea bag to my cup. Then the kids can enjoy from the pot and I can have a little jolt at the same time.
What is different from last recipe?
Here are the four magical tweaks:
When I cut out the black tea I really missed the dark richness that it gave. The mouth feel of black tea. And no matter what I added I just couldn't reproduce that. Until I tried rooibos. Rooibos is herbal but has the dark richness and thicker mojo of black tea, without the cranky jitters.
2. Star anise
Lupine would tell you it's cute (always helpful in a spice) and she's working on hot gluing one she swiped from my spice cabinet to a barrette. I'm more interested in the smooth, floral edge it lends. Of all four tweaks this is the most subtle, so if you are out of star anise charge forth without it. I add one to a large pot of chai.
3. Chili powder
Holymoses. I don't know what compelled me to first put chili powder in my tea. (Truly. I have absolutely. No. Idea.)
But since the first morning I did I don't think I've skipped a day. It's surreal how transcendentally good even a humble cup of black or red tea is with a pinch of chili powder. (My standard morning tea is now a cup of black tea with a pinch of ground ginger and a pinch of chili powder.)
And in chai? It's spicy heaven. If you are terrified of spice start slowly but if you are feeling brave add a decent pinch. Good morning!
It's freaking fantastic I tell you.
Do be sure your chili powder is just ground chilies. We don't want salt or funny chili seasoning blend in our tea.
4. Coconut sugar
Oh, coconut sugar. Where have you been all my life?
We long ago gave up refined sugar of all types. (Except that type in that hidden pint of ice cream in the back of the freezer. Shhhh…) When we began to eat more Paleo foods we discovered coconut sugar in lots of recipes.
And unlike agave's tarnished reputation and recent fall from hippie food glory, coconut sugar is clean. We reach for it often because it doesn't jack your blood sugar. (A good thing for lots of health reasons. Please don't bring up that ice cream.) It's also easy on your gut and has a more subtle flavor than honey, maple, or stevia in recipes.
But enough chatter. Let's get on to the recipe, shall we?
Are you ready? Because if you are, know that you'll want this every day. Consider yourself warned.
2 tsp Cardamon seeds or 2 T cardamon pods (ideally crushed with a mortar and pestle but whole works okay too if your lack of a spice grinder would stop you)
1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
Scant 1/2 tsp cloves
1" x 2" piece of fresh ginger, sliced thin or smashed with the butt end of a knife handle (or substitute 1 scant tsp dried ginger)
1 star anise
1-2 cinnamon sticks or 1 Tb cinnamon bark chips
1/4 tsp chili powder or 1 small whole dried chile
1/2 cup dried nettle
1/3 cup raspberry leaf
1/4 cup rooibos tea
coconut sugar to taste (1-3 tsp per cup, approximately)
milk of your choice (I use raw cow milk but it's outstanding with homemade coconut-almond milk as well.)
Bring 6 cups water to a boil with the spices. Cover and simmer for 5 to 25 minutes, depending on how spicy you like your chai.
Add nettle, raspberry leaf, and rooibos. (Note: While both nettle and raspberry leaf are safe, healthful herbs, nettle can be a bit drying to your system. In the winter feel free to leave it out if you are feeling dry. I add it because I appreciate the minerals. Listen to your body on this one if you drink it often.)
Remove from heat and steep covered for 15 minutes.
Strain out and compost your herbs. (Or if you simmered your spices for a shorter amount of time, strain out the first batch of chai, then add 4 cups of water to the herbs, simmer covered for 10 minutes, and then remove from heat. Let it steep all day. You'll have a second batch of chai that's almost as good as the first for no additional effort.)
Transfer your chai infusion to a glass jar and store in the fridge for up to a week.
To drink, combine 3 parts chai with 2 parts milk or whatever proportions your palate dictates. Warm and sweeten with coconut sugar to taste (also lovely is half coconut sugar and half honey, or just honey if you don't have coconut sugar on hand).
Drink and enjoy, and wonder how you ever lived a day without this chai.
P.S. Did you know that chai means tea? So if you call your chai "chai tea" you are referring to it as "tea tea". I have few pet peeves. But this is one.
P.P.S. Thank you to my long time sister-friend Ami and her mom for starting this unrelenting chai obsession of mine. I love you. And your chai tea.
P.P.P.S. Thank you for embracing yesterday's tender parenting post. You understand. xo
Oh, mercy. Just one more. My nettle mug is from here. Because you might just need one, too.
27 thoughts on “Homemade herbal chai recipe.”
Rooibos is indemic to my country, South Africa. We all GROW UP with the stuff! So good. Try as is with honey. Especially as an ice tea with lemon slices and ice cubes added – it’s summer here, what can I say?! Absolutely delicious.
Rooibos is a word in my mother tongue, meaning: red bush. the bush is not red, but the tea certainly is. Like your site a lot. You are living so differently from me, but I like the perspective I get from your posts. Have recently read your new baby check list. I feel you on the Avent pump. I work away from home [and baby 🙁 ], and I pumped out milk for 5 months after starting to work again (she was just 4 months – as were my 2 boys). So I at least could do that for her. I love them so! Enjoyed your Fleeting post. SO true.
i LOVE rooibos! great addition to chai! instead of chili powder, i add just a pinch of cayenne! … for spice and warmth! so.darn.good! i call it “hot n bothered chai!” 😉
What a great recipe! I’m going to try this as soon as I get rooibos.
Would you lump coconut sugar with coconut oil or with flaked coconut in terms of nut-tolerance? We have some minor nut allergies around here (can tolerate moderate use of the oil but little to none of physical nuts themselves). Or should I just play is safe and use something else?
I used to drink 16 ounces of herbal tea every day. It was my vitamin source (completely fixed my chronic charley horse pains in my legs and feet). But It’s gotten very hard to force myself to drink it of late. Perhaps this chai will be a way to sneek some of that back in..
Oh man. Looks like I’ll be making a trip to the herb store!!
Coconut oil, coconut butter, and flaked coconut are made from the meat. Coconut sugar is made from the sap of the tree. I assume that would make a difference as it is not from the nut at all, but I can’t say for sure. I suppose it depends on what you are reacting to.
Definitely! I’ve done that when I am out of chili powder. Lovely!
Thank you for sharing, Anel!
Yum!! As you can imagine, I love chai! Some of my favorite ingredients are: saffron, rose petals, and LOTS of freshly ground cardamom, pod and all.
Keep rockin the chai, girl!!
Mmmm. sounds like a perfect waiting for spring kind of drink.
Saffron and rose petals. Fun, Radha! Thanks for the ideas for future play.
Do you think this recipe is safe for pregnant women? Would you omit anything in particular? I see its caffeine free.
Thanks for the recipe…it sounds delicious! I don’t have the spices to make it, but will definitely get them. I have been drinking nettle tea since I found out from you that nettle is edible, and I love it. But this sounds even better!
Thanks for responding. We’re not entirely sure what he’s reacting to. It’s my middle son (four years old) that has issues with nuts. We’ve noticed that when he used to eat cashews or walnuts he had digestive issues and a rash. Same with almond milk. So we just avoid nuts. He can tolerate one full bowl of popcorn popped in coconut oil but not two (yes, we’ve really had two-bowls-of-popcorn days).
At any rate, I’ll look for some at the store tomorrow and if he’d like to try a little bit, we’ll see what happens (I can’t imagine trying this with a serious allergy – I’m forever thankful that his is so mild).
Wow, my taste buds are tingling. I am missing the nettles that’s all so i have to make son, NOW!! I even have Rooibos as i use it all the time. Thank you thank you.
By the way is the gorgeous teaspoon in the picture French? I bought a set out here like that in a flea market? We used to hammer them into bracelets in the hippie 70s.
I was curious about coconut sugar so I did some research and found this. http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/coconut_palm_sugar.htm
Thought I would share.
I just wanted to thank you for this recipe. I made it last night (sans coconut sugar – it was too pricey for me). My husband and I both really enjoyed it (iced – hey, it’s Florida!). My Imp, with the mild nut allergy, ended up not caring for it so I guess all of that worry was for nothing. Anyway, it was great to get my mortar and pestle out again. The house smelled amazing and now I have a tasty alternative to “second coffee.” (:
So. Thank you!
Thanks Brittany. My experience with researching it was akin to what Spunky Coconut found. Here is her summary: http://www.thespunkycoconut.com/2010/04/lets-talk-about-coconut-sap-sugar.html Two sides of one coin I suppose!
You are welcome! And honey is a great substitute for the coconut sugar if you don’t mind the flavor it emparts.
wow. i can’t wait to try this out.
This chai is just so awesome. I don’t like it when I run out!
Absolutely wonderful! I left out the nettle and I’ve also used tropical roobios. I make this tea by the gallon as my husband is a big fan of it to. Perfect for a cold winter morning. 🙂
Hi there, firstly this yummy! Just wondering, I have powder cinnamon and powder star anise. How many tsp would equate to the whole cinnamon stick, and star anaise?
Hi T. Ive never used ground herbs in my chai recipe because I find they leave far too much… grit in the tea for my palate. Sorry Im not sure what the ratios would be if you subbed in ground spices here!
I just printed off this recipe to try it out! I looked at it yesterday longingly, then got distracted. Last night I had a dream that you came by and were telling me about making chai…SO I thought I had better get to makin’ some chai! haha 🙂
I made this over the weekend and I love it. It is delicious!!! I was hesitant to try it because I do not care for any type of store-bought chai including what’s sold at certain coffee establishments. This is so much better. Thanks for sharing, Rachel. It’s my new drink of choice on these lovely fall days.
Out to pick stinging nettle right now! Where did you get that beautiful nettle mug? Thank you for the fantastic information!