It’s getting colder outside and that means warm drinks are everything to get you through the stress of the New Year and the freezing temperatures. Hot Chocolate, Apple Cider, Fancy coffee, Matcha, and various Hot Toddy drinks were all my favorites once. At some point in my life, I realized caffeine, alcohol, and sugar each had a profound effect on me that I really didn’t care for. I did the decaf thing for a while, but it never quite tasted right. Sometime during my long journey from caffeinated coffee to nutritive herbal tea I explored the world of Chai. What an amazing drink! The herbal chai always reminded me of my times in the goth club (probably the clove.)
In the late 1990s it was still somewhat rebellious to drink hot tea instead of coffee or alcohol so a hot chai quickly became my favorite.
Chai has a long history in Ayurvedic culture, dating back possibly 9,000 years to Siam, India and Thailand. Folk stories tell of a king who was in search of a warm medicinal drink and blended some spices together. Masala Chai, which means spicy tea, became the most popular tea of India and every family seems to have their favorite secret family recipe.
My big issue with the ingredients in modern chai tea is the caffeine in the black tea, and how not-cool the stimulant effect is on my adrenal system. I can’t stand the chai tea at most coffee shops with their sugar syrups and flavor oils. Luckily, if you make your own herbal chai blend it has no caffeine at all and tastes just like you want it!
The beautiful thing about making your own herbal chai is choosing the ingredients you want. You can mix up the flavors and add herbs for their medicinal properties, based on seasonal availability, or to fill a purpose (protection, courage etc).
Some of the most flavorful chai ingredients are pictured: clove, peppercorns, vitex, cinnamon sticks, orange peel, ginger, star anise, juniper berries and fresh turmeric. Here is one version of the herbal chai that I love to make!
6 cups of water
10 whole green cardamom pods
6 whole black peppercorns
4 cinnamon sticks
A thumb sized piece of ginger
A thumb sized piece of turmeric
½ tsp fennel seeds
3 TBS of rooibos (Roy-Bose) (or you can use 2 Tbs nettle and 1Tbs tulsi)
Up to 3 TBS total of other optional herbs, such as astragalus, rose hips and petals, hawthorn berries, milk thistle, star anise, echinacea or holy basil
1 cup of milk or milk alternative
(I prefer a homemade coconut almond milk) Maple syrup to taste, or honey if you prefer, but organic grade B maple syrup has higher nutrient content.
Some of the herbs can easily be found in the spice section, or at a health food store, but I source my bulk herbs (especially the imported ones) from Mountain Rose herbs because fair trade is very important to me. The spice must flow, so I want the confidence that I am working with earth conscious sustainable sources.
Herbal Chai Directions
Place the cardamom pods, cloves, peppercorns, and fennel seeds into a mortar and crush the herbs with the pestle. If you don’t have one of those awesome crushing tools, you can always chop them carefully with a sharp knife.
Place all of the crushed herbs, finely chopped ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon sticks into the water in a covered pot. With the lid slightly askew on top of the pot to allow for some evaporation, simmer the herbs in the water 20-30 minutes without letting it boil. Remove it from the heat and add the rooibos. Steep for another 10 minutes.
Strain the herbs out of the tea, rinse out your pot and put the tea back into the pot.
Add the milk and sweetener to taste. Gently warm until steamy hot.
(I prefer to also add some coconut oil and collagen powder and blend my chai with a stick blender until it’s nice and frothy)
Pour some into your Punky Moms mug and enjoy!
Anything that you don’t drink right away will keep in the fridge for about three days before it starts to taste funny. This herbal chai is also awesome cooled and served over ice! Chai is very versatile! You can experiment with your fav ingredients & proportions until you have your own signature chai!
Have fun and tell me all about your experience with herbal chai in the comments!
Picture from “Its just a phase” punk rock straight edge vegan zine
Brass Knuckles Cutting Board by Sunday Morning Woodshop in Winter Park, Fl
Picture of Mama and Punky Mug is Jennifer Lynn Doula
Check out what else The Punk Rock Herbalist has to say by checking out Part 1 in her Winter Wellness Series.