Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Vanilla Rose Herbal Chai

Vanilla Bean & Rose Petals      ©Trisha McCaul

  Wintertime is here. For many of us, it brings that wonderful hybernation-rich, yin & scarf-wearing energy. The cool weather always inspires me to explore the alchemy of tea making. I love hunkering down in my kitchen, blending handfuls of loose herbs into delicious warming beverages. Working with plants in the winter sustains me and serves as a reminder that the spring isn't too far off and the green verdant plant life will return once again.
   I was pondering the nuances of chai tea recently, and wanted to experiment with it. Chai tea is originally from India, and it traditionally contains black tea, milk, aromatic spices and a sweetener like sugar or honey. The popularity of chai has spread globally, and there are several variations on this recipe. Chai teas are very nice in the winter, because they are rich in aromatic spices that increase circulation and help warm the body. The recipe below is the result of my experiment with adding vanilla bean and rose petals to an aromatic, chai-type tea. It is very delicious and the spicy, and its enticing scent filled my house. It is caffeine-free, but black tea can easily be added for a more traditional version.

Cinnamon & Cloves       ©Trisha McCaul  

All of the herbs I used in this tea were in dried form. Most health food stores and herb shops carry them.

Ingredients (measured by weight)
1 ounce ginger root (I used the dried, cut & sifted root)
1 ounce fennel seed
1/2 ounce whole cloves
1/2 ounce anise seed
1/2 ounce cardamom seeds
1/2 ounce cinnamon chips (I used whole cinnamon sticks, broken up by hand into chips)

Small handful rose petals (per serving)
1" piece of vanilla bean, minced (per serving)

Mix together the ginger, fennel, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. This is the base for the tea. The measurements above provide enough of this mixture for seven servings. If you aren't going to use it all, it can be stored for later use. The vanilla and rose will be added later in the process of brewing the tea.

To make one serving:
Put 1/2 ounce of above spice mixture into a saucepan with 16 ounces of water. Cover. This is very important because these aromatic spices contain volatile oils which will easily evaporate from an uncovered pot.
Heat until just boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the rose petals and vanilla bean. Cover & let sit for another 10 minutes. Strain out the herbs from the tea. If you wish, add milk or honey. Enjoy.

This recipe is very forgiving, so don't worry if your amounts aren't exact. Play around with it. The vanilla and rose notes are not over-powering. If you want them stronger, simply add more to your tea.

©Trisha McCaul

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