Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Chai Tea Kludge

I am not a coffee drinker.

Growing up next door to my British great-aunt hooked me on hot tea for life. (Growing up in the South hooked me on iced tea, too, but that's another story.)

When Starbucks came around, I wasn't too terribly interested until I found myself in one with a friend and ordered the chai tea latte. I swore they must have put some illegal drugs in that thing because I *craved* it in the following days. Since then it's a favorite thing to go with a book or a friend and a Scrabble board and find a comfy chair and wile the evening away with my two favorite things - chai tea latte and words.

There are other places that serve even better chai tea than Starbucks - Panera, the cafe at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, TX, and Caravan Coffee in Belmont, NC. The chai tea at Caravan Coffee is *amazing*. It's creamy, sweet, and just the right spices. I'd be in serious trouble if it were not inconveniently far away.

Of course, frequenting coffee bars for chai tea lattes adds up. Fast. So when my mom introduced me to a mix I could make at home that tasted fantastic, I was thrilled! And so was my pocketbook!

So I made it and drank it. And shared the recipe. And enjoyed it. And loved it.

But when the weather turned cold and I made up a new batch, I realized something. My allergies started acting up. I was getting more hives. And the only thing I had changed was the chai tea mix. So I checked the ingredients and there didn't seem to be anything "bad" in it. I did a little more online research and discovered that "instant iced tea mix" is not tea at all. And one of the main ingredients that is not listed on the label is caramel color.

I am terribly allergic to caramel color.

It made me sad.

But then I came up with a crazy idea. What if I made the Spiced Chai Mix without the tea? Then I could just brew some plain old black tea and add the mix to that. Today I tried it. And the result was perfect.

So here's the recipe for my chai mix. You can put in the "instant tea" or you can leave it out and have real tea.

Spiced Chai Mix

3 cups nonfat dry milk powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
*1 cup unsweetened instant tea
3/4 cup vanilla powdered nondairy creamer
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves

In a food processor, combine all dry ingredients; cover and process until powdery. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 6 months.

To serve: Dissolve 3 tbsp. of mix in 3/4 cup boiling water; stir well. Top with whipped cream if desired.

*You can leave out the instant tea, then prepare as directed. To serve, brew mug of black tea, then add 3 tbsp of mix; stir well. Top with whipped cream as desired.

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