Luckily, making my own concentrate turned out to be an easy and even desirable task because boiling and steeping the tea perfumed my whole house with its warm spiciness. There is a lot of room for improvisation with this and I can see playing up certain notes depending on personal preference. Same goes for the sweetener - just remember that this recipe is for a concentrate so the flavors need to be strong.
I really love star anise and I discovered a cost-saving tip regarding this pretty spice. If you go to the grocery store and buy star anise you will pay a ridiculous amount. However, if you have access to an Asian grocer, they sell star anise on the cheap albeit in large quantities. It will force you to think up new ways to use it which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The same goes for cinnamon sticks...head to a Mexican grocer and stock up for far less than you would pay elsewhere.
If a frother doesn't exist in your kitchen, this problem can be easily remedied by heading to IKEA and throwing down a mere two bucks for this. Frothy milk really does complete the homemade Chai Tea Latte experience.
For about 3 cups of concentrate:
- 3½ cups water
- ½ cup agave nectar or honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 star anise
- ¼ teaspoon anise seeds
- 8 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 8 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced (there's no need to peel it)
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- 4 bags Darjeeling tea
Combine all the ingredients except the tea in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and allow to strongly simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Add the teabags, cover the pan again, and steep for 20 minutes more.
Strain the concentrate into a sealable container and store in the refrigerator for about a week.
To make a latte:
Stir together 1 cup milk to ½ cup concentrate (more or less to taste) and heat in a saucepan or in the microwave. Use a frother to whip up the milk and serve.