There’s something about the combination of warm cinnamon, floral cardamon and spicy ginger in strong, black tea that just heats down to your core on these cold winter days. It’s a great way to add some kick to dreary days, especially as we near the end of winter and it seems like the sun is never going to come back out! I crave masala chai on these days, and the last thing I want to do is go outside to the nearest coffee shop or Indian restaurant to get it. So I needed a way to bring chai into my home.
I like chai tea bags, but sometimes they just don’t do it for me. The spices aren’t strong enough, and the addition of milk waters it down too much. Chai concentrate or syrup is slightly better, but then you have to make sure you have milk or cream on hand (which isn’t always the case in our house). Adding spices to sweetened condensed milk is the best of everything I want: milky AND sweet AND spicy! Just add a few spoonfuls to ridiculously strong black tea and you’re all set.
I also added vanilla to the mix, which isn’t traditional. But I think it really accents the cinnamon and spices beautifully. You can simply leave it out if you’re more of a traditionalist.
Just a few notes: your results will vary based on how strong and fresh your spices are. In particular, you may wish to start with less nutmeg, clove and cardamon, because too much of these spices can make your chai a little bitter. Add more in 1/4 teaspoon increments until you’re happy with the balance of spices. Also, I still needed a touch more sweetener in my tea so I added some honey to the tea itself. There wasn’t quite enough sweetener in the condensed milk for me, but that’s a matter of personal taste.
Update 9/9/2015: I gave in and just adjusted the recipe to add some sweetener to the mixture itself. Feel free to leave it out, though!
Keep a small jar in your office refrigerator to make yourself a fancy breakfast or afternoon treat. Just don’t label the jar, in case your coworkers discover your secret stash. The sweetener would really liven up bad workplace coffee. And on that note: while a spoonful of this is great in coffee, the cardamom really . . . blooms, I would say. It comes through pretty strong, so start small.
I would also love to play with this sweetener in baked goods. Maybe in a cake? Ooh, or a chai dulce de leche?
Update 9/9/2015: I’ve started spooning this into my morning oatmeal with a drizzle of maple syrup for a little extra something.
- 1 can of sweetened, condensed milk (14 oz)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground cardamon (may wish to start with less and add to taste)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- 1 teaspoon ground clove
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- pinch of salt
- optional: 2 tablespoons agave nectar or honey, if you like a sweeter tea
- Combine all ingredients in a jar. Stir thoroughly to combine.
- Taste and adjust flavors as necessary.
- Add 2 or 3 generous teaspoons of the mixture to very strong black tea or to black coffee for a boost of milky, spicy flavor.
- Refrigerate in an air-tight container. It will last for 3-4 weeks.
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