Fragrant spices inspire your mind to conjure up all manner of images. From out of nowhere, the scent of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and many other aromas will start off a film in your head that’s set somewhere sunny and warm. Or at least that’s what happens to me when I’m holding a steaming chai latte in the morning and looking forward expectantly to the day ahead.
Chai latte is a relatively simple combination of black tea, milk, spices and something to sweeten. And to enjoy the full flavour and warmth of the spices, it’s best to infuse them in a syrup overnight so they’re at their optimum strength in the morning.
For the chai spice syrup, you’ll need 4 cinnamon sticks, 1 tbsp black peppercorns, 4 star anise pods, 8 whole cloves, 12 cardamom pods, 5 tbsp Ceylon tea, a large pinch of nutmeg and the pulp of 2 vanilla pods.
Here’s how to make it: dry roast the spices (not the tea, nutmeg or vanilla) without any oil on a medium heat in a non-stick pan until they release their aromas. Then crush them coarsely using a pestle and mortar. Slowly caramelize 400 g sugar in a pan until it turns amber in colour, then add 400 ml water and mix. Add the spices, tea, nutmeg and vanilla and allow to infuse at a low heat for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and leave to steep overnight. Once bottled, the chai syrup will easily keep in the fridge for several weeks.
For your spicy morning treat, mix one part chai syrup with two parts warmed milk – almond or regular, depending on your preference – and enjoy the images it evokes in your mind.