When my husband and I chose to leave our city life to raise our children in a place with beautiful fresh air and the freedom of space I had few concerns. The prospect of forging a new way of life, growing our own food, building trails through our forest and having free rein over our outdoor living space (with the closest neighbor being a mere spec on the horizon) was exciting. However, there was one thing that I knew I was going to struggle with, the devastating truth that the closest café was twenty minutes away. My daily dose of caffeine that was prepared for me, by my local barista with professional perfection, was going to be a thing of the past and instead would become an occasional treat. I knew that if I were going to survive (my first world problem) I would need to have an alternative special beverage option available to fill the void.

My typical order was (and still is) a grande, half sweet, extra hot, soy chai latté! So my quest became finding a recipe that delighted my senses and brought about the same feelings of calmness and well being as much as my treasured latté.

Only once in my life had I prepared a sweet chai; a full Indian meal that my class had prepared at the Natural Gourmet Institute accompanied it. Our teaching chef had once traded his cosmopolitan life in Manhattan for a simplistic life at an ashram at the head of the Ganges in India. For seven years he worked among the chefs in the kitchen there to help bring a modern flare to their cooking, in return they taught him the healing benefits of their traditional meals and the ancient wisdom of ayurvedic cooking. Just thinking back to that meal makes my mouth water. If chef had selected this chai recipe for our class to prepare I trusted that his experience would most definitely fulfill my quest. Upon finding the recipe and a quick trip to the grocer to source some spices, the tea steeping began. As the smell of the fragrant spices filled the air, a warm calming effect came over the household, I knew without a doubt that this recipe was going to become a staple in my life.

Drinking chai in India has always been a staple of everyday life; they have cherished chai for centuries knowing the benefits to health and wellbeing.  Besides the calming effect that I experience, chai has been shown to improve digestion, enhance the immune system, fight inflammation and have antioxidant properties. In addition, it is suggested that chai has antibacterial and anti-cancer effects as well!

So, as the busyness of the Christmas holidays begins and stressful moments mount, I encourage you to sit back and relax with a delightful cup of sweet chai, you can bet that I will be.


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SWEET CHAI TEA

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 piece peeled ginger (1 ½” x 1 ½”) cut into 4 slices
  • 12-15 cardamom pods
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 8-10 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 3 bags black tea
  • 3-4 tablespoons honey (or agave)
  • 3 ½ cups coconut milk (or whole milk)

Procedure

Bring water, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, allspice, cloves and coriander to a boil.
Cover and lower to a simmer for 20 minutes; remove from heat source.

Add 3 black tea bags to spice mixture and steep for 15 minutes, covered.

Remove tea bags and add honey and coconut milk slowly stirring until dissolved; reheat  tea.

Strain tea and serve hot.

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Tracy Stuart
As the temperatures dip and the craziness of the holiday season begins, I believe it's important to remember to slow down, build a fire, and snuggle up with a delightful cup of sweet chai. Let the aromas fill your home as the stress of the day melts away! Since moving to River John, with no cafes in sight, I've worked on perfecting my favourite chai, which I first discovered at Natural Gourmet Institute. Tracy also holds a Master of Science and Bachelor of Physical Education; she is also a two-time World Champion and Olympic Bronze Medalist in rowing.