Homemade Chai Nuevo Mexicano - El Ritual de lo Habituel
- Andrew Stone, COOP Board Member emeritus
Having been a lifelong coffee afficionado in its original meaning, 'addict', I knew I had crossed my Rubicon when, after a 4-shot breve latte, I fell fast asleep. I've heard Dr. Andrew Weil say that when a patient comes in and describes a litany of what's wrong with them, he tells them to quit coffee and come back in two weeks! I had read much about the healthy caffeine alternative green tea with its anti-oxidant properties, but had never cared for its bitter astringent qualities (although a Buddhist friend assures me nothing beats plain green tea!) Remembering my Eastern lore, I googled 'Yogi Tea' - only to find that it was a trade name, not a recipe! Digging further revealed the seven (to eleven) sacred ingedients to an amazing brew that both revives the weary soul but feeds the body - Indian Chai (don't say Tea after Chai unless you like redundantly saying things like "The Rio Grande River" because Chai simply means Tea!)
I feel the tea high is much cleaner, smoother, longer lasting, and less likely to give you the jitters and the nasty crash of coffee. Your kids won't accuse you of having bad breath either! Ernst Jünger, a great German writer and poet, wrote in a letter to Dr. Albert Hofmann:
Tea is in my opinion a phantasticum, coffee an energeticum – tea therefore possesses a disproportionately higher artistic rank. I notice that coffee disrupts the delicate lattice of light and shadows, the fruitful doubts that emerge during the writing of a sentence. One exceeds his inhibitions. With tea, on the other hand, the thoughts climb genuinely upward.
It's simple to make chai from scratch, and quite rewarding to work with the raw ingredients. Ideally, I like to cold infuse the herbs the night before so I can fire up the tea half asleep. Here's a recipe for 4 cups:
Grind in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle if you're a purist:
one cinnamon stick
7 green cardamon pods
7 black peppercorns
1 star anise
Thinly slice a nice hunk of fresh ginger
Toss these into 2 cups of filtered water
If you want to make it A la Nuevo Mexicano, add a pinch of ground red chile or cayenne - Capsican, the active ingredient in chiles, is a powerful vasodilator, which decreases blood pressure and gives you a good feeling. And to fully invoke the ancient gods of Atzlan, add a teaspoon powdered dark chocolate.
An overnight soaking really releases the flavors. Turn on the heat and add:
1 1/2 cup of milk or soy/rice milk
1/2 cup of half and half (really makes it delicious!)
Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally - but contrary to popular wisdom, do watch the pot so it doesn't boil over! Take off heat and add:
2 tablespoons of honey (Ayurevedics insist sugar)
2 tablespoons of Gunpowder Green tea
Brew for 3 minutes, and using a fine strainer, strain into mugs. Sit back and enjoy the lattice of light and shadows.
I've seen chai made where the tea is boiled, but that leads to two problems: extreme bitterness as the tea's tannin comes out with boiling and degradation of the caffeine molecule when exposed to temperatures over 200 degrees.
The COOP sells two excellent green teas in the bulk area that really lend themselves to tasty chai - the Gunpowder green - which unfurls like smoke in the tea, and Montana Tea company Organic Green. If those are too pricey, plain old green tea is fine. You can get a week's supply for less than the cost of a 4-shot breve latte, your breath will be as sweet as honey, and your mind and productivity will soar!