One of my favorite summer drinks is an iced chai latte, especially from Panera, especially when combined with a cinnamon crunch bagel with plain cream cheese. The thing is, there is no Panera in China. No cinnamon crunch bagels. No iced chai lattes, or any other chai that I have discovered (and its not because I haven’t looked).
I also love hot chai, so I put chai tea on my Christmas list and my family graciously stocked me up. I’ve been enjoying chai all winter long. But the weather started to heat up (as in: it was already in the upper 80s a month ago), and what I really wanted was an iced chai latte. I missed them for a few weeks, but hadn’t figured out how I would make one with the supplies I had.
Then one day, I was at the supermarket, looking for sesame seeds. I was going to use them to top the hamburger buns I would have to make if I couldn’t find any in the supermarket bakery. As it turned out, they did have “hamburg embryo” (somehow bun gets translated embryo in Chinese…don’t ask why). But in my search for sesame seeds, I also discovered quite a collection of dried spices in small packages. One of them looked like cardamom pods, a key ingredient in chai. I compared the characters on the package to the dictionary and found I was right: cardamom! I did a quick internet search for chai recipes to figure out what else I might need. It turned out I could get almost everything in that little area of the local supermarket (exceptions: whole cloves, black peppercorns, and vanilla extract came from stores with more Western goods, the bay leaves, tea, and sugar from other parts of the supermarket).
When I got home I did more research, consulted some recipes, and picked one to start with. I can’t leave a recipe alone, so I adapted it to fit my taste using some ideas from this recipe. I made a couple of small batches to test out the proportions, and once I had it figured out I started making bigger batches. I’m sharing it in case you would also like to enjoy this delicious drink, especially if you live in China (also, I’m totally pretending to be a food blogger). This chai is on the spicy side (strong, not hot) and not overly sweet. It reminds me of the chai I would get when I visited Nepalese and Sri Lankan families in the U.S. If that isn’t your preference, you can cut down on the peppercorns, cardamom, or bay leaf.
Iced Chai Latte Recipe
makes about 5 1/2 cups concentrate, enough for 10-11 8 oz. (1 cup) lattes
6 Tablespoons sugar
35 white cardamom pods
3 star anise
2-3” of ginger, peeled and cut into thick slices
6-12 pieces dried orange peel, optional
3 cinnamon sticks
18 whole cloves
12 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
12 black tea teabags, string and tag removed
6 cups water
2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract
Milk (of your choice)
Place all the ingredients except vanilla and milk into a pan. Bring the water to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and allow it to simmer for five minutes.
Turn the heat off and let the mixture steep for about 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags, squeezing out any liquid in them.
Let the spices continue to steep for another 15 minutes. Pour the mixture through a strainer to remove the spices from the liquid. Stir in the vanilla.
Let cool completely and refrigerate. The concentrate will keep for some time in the refrigerator, and you can use it as desired.
To make a latte, pour concentrate and milk over ice and mix gently. With this strength of concentrate I use a 1:1 milk:concentrate ratio. Enjoy!