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The chai teas from India are legendary, and the warm aroma of simmering spices will instantly transport you there. Like many great slow-foods, the perfect cup of chai can’t be reduced to an “instant” occurrence. The assembly of essential ingredients (spices, tea, milk and sweetener) just doesn’t lend itself to short-cuts if you want full flavor. The good news is- it’s easy! And doesn’t require a plane ticket.
The first tip for making really tasty chai is starting with whole spices and loose tea. These already have more flavor potential than the powders found in tea bags because when spices and tea are ground up, they lose flavor more quickly. Next, make sure to use boiling water, and a pot or pan that will allow the water to circulate freely around the spices and tea. The boiling water extracts the most flavor from the spices and tea, and the more freely it circulates- the more flavor you get. Using these starting points as a guide- just simmer, steep and strain and you’ll have a great brew. Read on for more particulars….
Classic Indian chai is made with black tea, strong spices, whole milk and LOTS of sweetener. The spices and tea are simmered on the stove top and then strained, and warm milk and sugar are added. This is a great brew, but not my idea of a perfect cup because of the excess of sweet. The reason for the loads of sweet is that when you boil tea it becomes bitter- and the sweetener tones that down. Many chai concentrates are excessively sweet for the same reason.
There are several ways around this but the easiest is to simply brew the spices and tea in stages. Begin by simmering your spices for 3-5 minutes in a small saucepan- this brings out all their glorious flavor- then add the tea and remove the pan from heat and simply allow the tea to steep an additional 3-4 minutes. Strain the brew and add warm milk and sweetener to taste. One convenience we like is to transfer the mixture to a French press pot for the final steeping because it makes the straining easy! How much spice and how much tea? Start with 1-2 teaspoons of spice per cup of water, and 1-2 teaspoons of tea for the second stage. If this sounds strong, remember- you’ll be adding milk as well.
The beauty of this DIY Chai is that you can customize it in so many ways to suit your taste. Traditional chai spices include cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, pepper and clove but don’t stop there. We’ve tried everything from star anise and fennel, to coriander and orange peel with great success. The spice possibilities are endless. We keep our bestsellers, Classic Chai and Roast Chai, on hand year round. You can also switch up the proportion of spices and tea to highlight one or the other.
When it comes to selecting a black tea to go into your chai, Assam is our hands-down favorite. The bold flavor stands up well to the spices and makes the perfect base. If you want to try an herbal to avoid caffeine, Rooibos is an excellent choice, too. It also provides a solid base and unlike black teas does not become bitter with longer steeping times, so you can simmer or steep without that bitter edge creeping in.
You’ll also find several varieties to choose from for the last two essential ingredients- milk and sweetener- and let your own preference be your guide. We make our World Spice Classic with whole milk and honey. Whether you like it spicy or sweet, taking the time to make chai fills the house with intoxicating aromas- it’s the quickest trip to India you’ll ever take. Enjoy.
Afro-Vegan by Bryant Terry is the World Spice Cookbook Club selection for May, and we’ll be serving up his delicious Roselle-Rooibos drink at the Meet & Eat.
From Bryant Terry author of Afro-Vegan: “This drink is tart, sweet, and floral and has become one of my favorite summertime beverages. In this recipe, I call for fresh pineapple to give the drink texture and vibrant tropical flavor, but when my editor, Melissa Moore, brought me a bag of fresh peaches from the farm of Mas Masumoto, I peeled, sliced, and used them in place of the pineapple. It was off the chain! I think any other stone fruit, such as nectarines or cherries, would also work well and I encourage you to experiment with adding them.
For a late fall or winter spin, serve this drink warm, omitting the fresh fruit and boiling the tea and hibiscus with 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves, in a nod to how roselle is prepared in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Afro-Vegan: Farm Fresh African, Caribbean & Southern Flavors Remixed is the May selection for the World Spice Cookbook Club. Afro-Vegan is currently available for purchase at our retail store and also online through the following sellers: Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Powells.com, IndieBound.org.
Reprinted with permission from Afro-Vegan by Bryant Terry, copyright (c) 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography (c) 2014 by Paige Green
Give the gift of spices and continue to share the simple joy of flavor with friends and family long after the decorations come down.
- Flavors of the Holy Land gift set, and the
New Persian Kitchen cookbook
- Make Your Own Curry gift set, The Indian Slow Cooker cookbook,
and a Masala Dabba
- Around the World gift set
- Any of our regional gift sets
FOR THE MEATLOVER –
- Big Tubs of Rubs gift set
- Tango Trio gift set and Latin Grilling cookbook
- BBQ Belt: Regional Rubs gift set
with Charred & Scruffed cookbook
- This Little Piggy gift set and a primal cuts pork kitchen towel
- Beefcake gift set with a primal cuts beef kitchen towel
- Marinades, Rubs, Brines, Cures & Glazes cookbook
- Kitchen Aid Spice Grinder
- Atlas Pepper or Salt Mill and a supply of Tellicherry Black Pepper or Himalayan Pink Salt
- Shake and its Ball jar cocktail shaker
- Lark: Cooking Against the Grain cookbook
FOR THE TEA AFICIONADO –
- Little Luxuries gift set featuring four decadent indulgences
- Salt & Pepper Upgrade gift set
- Roast or Sweet Chai Kit
- Cocktail, Recipe or our new favorite Chai Dice
- Scrappys Bitters Sampler pack
- Vanilla Bean Puree or ground Vanilla Bean
Still stuck? Check out our Gift Cards, Gift Cards, and more Gift Cards!
Who says you have to make curry with your curry? No one! This warm winter pudding was inspired by our friends at Hunger Restaurant, and since trying theirs we have come up with some delightful variations of our own. We’ve added diced apples to replace the traditional raisins- pears are nice too- and infused a mild amount of spice into the custard and cream. Enjoy with coffee, chai or your favorite toddy; nothing says holiday like bread pudding.
It’s always long about this part of October that I find myself finally letting go of the end-o’-summer doldrums, and suddenly excited to break out my wool sweaters and boots, hear that satisfying crunch of frosted grass as I cross my lawn in the morning, and most especially, to curl my fingers around a hot mug of steamy tea that fogs my glasses and fills my nose with its intoxicating aroma. In preparation for that first freeze, we’ve added a bounty of new varieties to the tea section that I’m certain you’ll enjoy– they’ve even enticed me out of my all-day-every-day chai habit! This post, the first of a two-part installment about our updated menu, will cover the darker teas- three black teas, and one phenomenal pu-ehr. Oolong and green tea drinkers, stay tuned for part two!
Dian Hong (Golden Needle):
Though we in the west refer to fully oxidized tea as “black,” referring to how it appears dry, the Chinese call it “red,” for the color of the brew. Dian Hong is a classic Chinese black tea from Yunnan Provence; “Dian” for Yunnan, and “Hong,” meaning “red.” Our variety comes from the large leaf pu-erh tea trees, and is full of enormous golden buds- which to the connoisseur means a sweeter cup with less astringency. After the first steeping, the soup has a bold, rich texture, and flavor like hot chocolate with a bit of a malty tone. Brew each serving of leaves three to four times, and taste as the body gets lighter, but the aroma gets sweeter. I drink this one first thing in the morning, and let it carry me up until noon!
Pu-erh is also produced in the Yunnan province of China, from the same trees that give us the gorgeous Dian Hong. To process these leaves in to pu-ehr, the tea leaves are picked, piled, dampened, and turned periodically for six months to a year to ensure even fermentation. Once the tea is considered ripened, it is dried. The highest quality leaves are left loose, while the rest are graded, then steamed in to a variety of shapes- pressed in to citrus fruits, bricks, or little cakes. This gorgeous loose pu-erh does not need the usual rinse cycle of our tuocha pu-erh. The the earthy, barnyard quality of pu-erh may be an acquired taste, but for me, it’s reminiscent of a clean forest floor after a rain. If you like beets, mushrooms, and figs, chances are, you’ll appreciate this unique flavor. Each steeping of the leaves produces progressively sweeter tea- as many as ten times! This is the tea for rainy Saturday mornings with the crossword.
First Flush Darjeeling:
When talking tea, “flush” refers to the time of harvest. Darjeeling, from West Bengal, India, is harvested five times throughout the year. At “First Flush,” in mid-March, only the new spring growth- one bud and two tiny leaves- are harvested, and minimally processed. The result is heavenly- complex, nuanced, like orange blossoms and sweet grapes. Though it’s sold as a black tea, our rare and prized First Flush Darjeeling has more in common with Chinese oolongs than it does most black teas, with a gentle, light brew that absolutely lives up to its reputation as the “champagne of teas.” This is my two-o’clock tea- my reward for a day two-thirds done! (For a more classic black with the Darjeeling profile, try the Second Flush-harvested in June- a more robust, spicier, darker amber cup- it’s my go-to pairing for that chai I said I was giving up!)
The state of Assam in India is home to rolling, verdant hills, and a venerable tea tradition. Political unrest and poor weather have plagued the area for some time, so procuring an Assam tea that lives up to our exacting standards has been no easy task! Though we’ve always managed to get our hands on a tea that satisfies us, this crop is easily the best we’ve seen in years. The heavy rains of the monsoon season in this region are what give Assam tea its classic “malty” characteristic, and this tea has no shortage of that, but is matched with a unique sweetness, reminiscent of wildflower honey. Its brisk flavor and medium body make it ideal as breakfast tea, though the World Spice team takes it all day long, buoyed by milk and sugar in the British tradition. It’s again, a classic pair with any of our chai masalas.
These teas are a lovely start to embracing the autumn chill, and expanding your horizons beyond your hot beverage rut du jour, whatever it may be. Order a few ounces of a soon-to-be-favorite online, or pay us a visit on a foggy morning for an in-person taste!
The World Spice crew of spice specialists offer expertise in botany and plant chemistry as well as the culinary arts. It’s a fun group, a spicy group! Read on for more information…
Amanda Bevill, aka Star Anise
Amanda Bevill has a life-long love of plants. As a small girl growing up in the south, she was often introduced as the daughter that was into twigs and stems. One botany degree and years of continued study later, she is responsible for the spice and herb selection we have today. Ever on the hunt for new exotics or varietals, she’s constantly on the go. When she is in town, she’s often brain-storming and testing new blend recipes to improve our current selections. If she does sit still for more than a moment, it’s to groom, pat, or ride her Rocky Mountain horse, Dewey, or to perfect a cocktail with an interesting spice infusion. One can not say they’ve lived until they’ve tasted an Amanda Bevill Lion’s Tail, lovingly crafted with Indian Coriander-infused bourbon!
Sherrie Hahn, aka Sassy Steak Spice
Sherrie learned to cook at the side of her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother in their kitchens. She has always loved to play with food, something that was always encouraged by her mother. After college, and years of working in non-culinary fields, she decided to go to culinary school. She graduated with honors and cooked professionally in Seattle for over a decade, mostly in Mediterranean and Latin restaurants. During that time, she started working at the shop part-time; her knack at experimentation and great understanding of the blending properties of the spices and herbs led her to create several of our proprietary blends. Now full-time in the retail store, after years as our blendmaster, Sherrie loves to share knowledge with others. Her culinary motto to live by is “Life’s too short to eat boring food.”
Holly “Posh Spice” Morris, aka Peppermint
Holly is one of our most prolific bloggers, primarily because she is always around the kitchen, but never actually gets her hands dirty. An enthusiastic foodie, she counts herself very lucky to have grown up in a family of fine cooks, to work with a group of recovering chefs, and to eat out on a regular basis in Seattle’s amazing food-scape. Responsible for the cookbook selections at the store (among other things), she loves to read up on new recipes for someone else to try. You can often find her overseeing things at our retail location along with Delilah Vanilla Bean, her very capable assistant.
Angelina Jacobson, aka Angelini Porcini
Angelina’s Montessori school report card notes that “Angelina very much enjoys food preparation,” but in truth, she was drawn to professional cooking by the excess of Bob Dylan played in the kitchen and the poor behavior of her colleagues. She spent nine years in the Seattle restaurant and catering scene, and did time at a few private estate gigs. Her primary style is “Northwest,” with a heavy western Mediterranean influence, focused on seasonal products and small, local producers. She strives for balance, in life and in flavor, and enjoys food (and people) with a sense of whimsy. Her signature stamp could be described as “familiar flavors in unfamiliar ways.” When she’s not hawking spice or posting foodie blogs, you can find her pursuing some facet of her other passion, aviation, being mama bear to her rad daughter Harper, or displaying a characteristic lack of regard for her personal safety in any number of outdoor pursuits.
Charles Allan Crum, aka Savory Spice
Allan grew up in northern Wisconsin and started working in a local restaurant at an age that is generally frowned upon by the Department of Labor, cleaning dishes and slinging pizzas for $6.15 per hour. Immediately after high school he high-tailed it to Whitman College in Washington. One job as a cook at a white water kayaking resort later, combined with the desire to impress certain female companions, and young Allan has turned a hobby into an obsession. Now he spends his days helping Seattle decide what to eat for dinner and his nights exploring off-maligned delights of a porcine nature, from head to trotter. Allan is still impressing the ladies, and with his love of game meat (the more unusual the better), we see a bright future for him on a new reality show titled, “Why not? I’ll eat it.”
Robert Charles Russell, aka Oaxacness Monster
Robert was born and raised in eastern Pennsylvania and was first introduced to the culinary industry through a series of after school jobs as a busboy, server and bartender. After almost five years of providing high quality service, a developing passion for the foodservice industry drove Robert to enroll in culinary school to discover life on both the other side of the line and the other side of the country at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. An opportunity to take an internship in South Africa lead Robert to trade the world famous wineries of Napa for the emerging wine country of Stellenbosch. After several years of working in hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and wineries in South Africa, Robert returned to the east coast of the United States to work with the Starr Restaurant Group in Philadelphia. Inspired by his brief encounters with the Morimoto kitchen and staff, he traveled to Hawaii where he studied Japanese cuisine at the Waikiki location of the world famous restaurant group Nobu. Robert is thrilled to continue his culinary journey here in the Pacific Northwest; first at The Flying Fish, a celebrated staple of the Seattle restaurant scene then moving to World Spice Merchants’ Professional Division to explore the supply side of the restaurant industry in an ongoing quest to experience and understand all facets of food service.
Kimberley Hiner, aka Candied Ginger
An enthusiastic home cook, happily married for over two decades, busy working mother of two adventurous eaters, Kimberley frequently finds herself juggling many balls with as much dignity and grace as possible. “I find solace in planning, shopping for and preparing our family meals. Filling our home with the delicious aromas of freshly prepared meals brings warmth to my heart and to my family”. Kimberley brings a background of nutrition, herbal medicine, chemistry and a spirited nature to her food. You may see her at any one of the Farmer’s Markets around Seattle looking for the freshest ingredients for her next food adventure. If you, do, be sure to say “hi” as she will most certainly love to tell you what she is cooking!
Hannah Moon, aka Sweet Chai
Bloggers were encouraged to pick their own nicknames. No feelings were hurt in the publishing of this “Meet the Bloggers” page.