Friday, 21 August 2015

Slurp slurp! Iced Chai Tea Latte

(firstly, apologies for lack of images in this word heavy post...I am currently having image loading issue and will add some as soon as possible...Ange x)

My first experience of Iced Tea Latte was surprisingly, for someone in the 40s, not that long ago...and I remember it well. I've never really been interested in milky drinks, let alone cold milky tea...from childhood I hated the taste of milk on it's own. Hated it on breakfast cereals...I actually eat cereals dry (yep I'm a bit weird like that) Milkshakes were fine if flavoured well, but milky tea...yuck! My tea was always hot, strong with the emphasis on the flavour of the tea leaves...and in some cases drunk black with no milk at all. I would drink an iced black tea....but a latte version? never really caught my fancy...

...so it was only a couple of years ago that I found myself wandering around one of our many local food fairs - there was music playing, lots to see and do, lots of food to sample, it was an unusually hot beautiful day...and I was feeling parched. My bottle of water I tend to carry around in my bag was long drained and I needed fluids....fast! I had the usual choice of going into a store and buying an overpriced bottle of water (errr no thank you!), or treating myself to a tipple from one of the food stalls. They had the usual number of 'brand' coffee shop stalls such as Costa and Starbucks, some bars selling alcoholic drinks and a lovely collection of independent coffee houses and bakeries...all offering beverages in an overwhelming choice of flavours and varieties. Alcohol was not really a fancy...a bit to early in the day for me and too hot, Starbucks and Costa a no from the start (I do not buy from Starbucks full stop - I have reasons many to do with UK tax evasion practices...but hey that's my choice, I know so many of you out there love them so that's fine, I accept that, but I personally will not give them my money). So, that left the independents....all I had to do was decide what to have.

Hot drinks didn't do it for me on such a hot day....smoothies milkshakes and all their cool icecreaminess were tempting but a tad boring on the flavour varieties available and I was after something cool refreshing, unusual and maybe a bit more grown up! An independent Birmingham bakery store came to my rescue!

I noticed at this stall a small selection of iced teas and lattes and although I've baulked at drinking this kind of thing in thepast, the flavours they offered were intriguing from mango with green tea to coconut, real vanilla, earlgreys and their 'special spiced'. Seeing my dilemma, a helpful member of their staff offered me a small sample of the 'special'. A wee dram was poured over a single ice cube in a tiny cup and handed over with an expectant smile...'it really is quite special' she said...

...I warned her I was not really into milky drinks but went for it and raised it to my lips....the first thing that hit me was the smell....my nostrils were filled with warming hints of cinnamon and clove...and other spices I couldn't quite place....and then on taste I was quite blown away...silky smooth creamy with a good tea flavour coming through...but the addition of the spices were amazing...it was like drinking liquid Christmas! The only thing that spoiled it for me was an slightly overpowering taste of ginger.....I'm actually quite sensitive and bit intolerant to ginger so it kind of took over all my taste buds in a not so pleasing way. Other than that it was really surprisingly tasty! I stated to think maybe I got this wrong after all....maybe latte are worthy of being hooked on!

"People say it's as good as...if not better, than a certain well known coffee shop drink" she said, discreetly gesturing towards that 'certain well known coffee shop' stall...the one with the weird green n white mermaid type wavy haired lady in their logo. "Chai inspired....but not quite Chai!" she went on...so I replied explaining that I'd never and will never buy from that 'certain well known coffee shop' so I didn't really know and couldn't compare...but this Bakery's one was certainly lovely (just maybe not the ginger bit). I coyly asked if she could tell me the spices used...I could identify some...but not all...but she happily (a bit too happily in my opinion) informed me it was a secret blend of theirs, not to be divulged. Such a shame...but understandable...it was worth a try.

To cut a long story shorter, I ended up purchasing one of their plain black tea iced latte which I found wonderfully refreshing, and quite delicious....but just couldn't get the spiced one out of my head...it had been a taste revelation to me and I was determined to go home, do a bit of internet research to find out the ingredients myself...and make my own...surely it would be quite easy to do. I suddenly realised there and then that I was hooked lined and sinkered....I not only liked iced tea latte....I rather LOVED iced tea latte....

Iced tea latte...where have you been all my life!

Yes, yes I know...all you Starbuck people out there thinking 'she's only JUST discovered tea latte?!!!!...that's sooooo last year!'

I know...I know....I'm a bit of a latte novice...I'm a bit late into the game...and I don't even like and drink coffee either....she said, currently now searching for the most palatable coffee laced frappe...gawd help you when I discover that...you'll never hear the last of it LOL!

anyhoos....back to the tea latte...

I found perhaps maybe TOO many recipes for Chai Tea Latte that I did get a little confused and bewildered....most claiming to be THE ONE they use for Starbucks...but nearly all with slight variations...and to be quite honest I have no clue what theirs tastes like, not really bothered either....I just wanted to get one to taste close to that bakery's one... and one that I like the flavour of.....and most importantly one with out the need for the ginger spice! I found plenty of the recipes using ready made chai tea bags, cutting out the need for using all the individual spices and I found some using premade shop bought concentrates but most of those were considered to be too sweet and I found some blogs and websites I read advised making the Chai concentrate from scratch so you can tailor the spices to suit the palate...plus control the sweetness with your own additions of sugars and/or honey. That certainly suited me and help in my need to remove the ginger.

I found this little posting helpful on how to make your basic tea latte - www.samovartea.com and then finally settled on taking inspiration from this blog recipe here from Ali on www.gimmesomeoven.com

...and then I did some tweaking of my own (as per usual).

I felt Ali's recipe the most suitable to try because it was one of the very few that includes Star Anise and Allspice...and now on reflection and having tasted my own drink I made I think I can honestly say it was possibly these two spices that made the bakery chai inspired latte so nice...the ones I couldn't quite place at the time...they certainly add that special something to it all.

I also halved the recipe - Ali's recipe yields 4 cups (approx. 1000ml) of concentrate which was too much for me as I'm the only one drinking this stuff around here so it was halved and mine, with perhaps a little more reducing than was probably necessary, yielded a good 350ml...enough to fill one small plastic pop bottle that I then sealed and stored in the fridge. They advise it is stored a maximum 1 week so this is perfect for me to last just that and I can easily whip up another fresh batch in no time.

I felt her recipe was perhaps too heavy on the cardamom (uses 12 pods) for my liking....I know Chai is predominantly all about the cardamom but you have to be careful with this spice as it can lend to be a little on the medicinal tasting side of things. I reduced my recipe to just 3 pods, and also reduced the peppercorns and cloves to 3 each too....this was just to try out the flavouring and I can tweak this again with a fresh batch...but found this perfectly fine and tasty at this level. I also removed the ginger...obviously for my personal intolerance reasons, but it's optional and would say if you don't have an issue with it, then add it for sure as I think that warm hit would lend and extra something to the drink.

One last piece of advise is that you should ideally be using whole spices NOT ground powders as the powders are concentrated in themselves, vary greatly in quality and quantity and will upset the balance of the Chai mix. If you do need to use ground powdered spices then please refer to product label for amount substitutions. To sieve the whole spices you will need a normal metal or plastic sieve that will help remove the large spice pieces but still allow the vanilla seeds to pass through.
CHAI TEA CONCENTRATE

yields approx. 400ml of concentrate for use in iced and hot Chai Tea and Chai Tea Latte

takes approx. 25-30 minutes prep and cooking time plus extra to cool before use.

Stores for maximum 1 week in fridge

For best results use whole spices....not really advisable to use dried ground blends due to concentration variations (refer to product labelling for amount substitutions)

INGREDIENTS

  • 3-6 whole crushed cardamom pods
  • 3 whole black peppercorns
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 1 whole allspice
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, roughly sliced
  • 1 vanilla pod, split down the length (do not remove the seeds)
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 cups (500ml) water
  • 2 black leaf tea bags (I use Clipper fairtrade breakfast tea) 
Keeping aside the tea bags, add all the remaining ingredients into a pan, bring to the boil over a medium heat, then reduce to low, cover with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes. Add tea bags, turn off the heat and allow to steep (brew) for a further 5 minutes. Squeeze out the teabags then strain off the spice pieces. Reserve the liquid and allow to cool at room temperature before storing in a sealed bottle or jar in the fridge (for up to one week).

TO MAKE UP

ICED BLACK CHAI TEA - mix equal quantities of concentrate and water (or to taste) and serve in glass over ice. Add extra sugar or honey to taste if required.

HOT BLACK CHAI TEA - mix equal quantities of concentrate and water in a pan, over heat bring to a boil, serve in a heatproof mug, add extra sugar or honey to taste if required.

ICED CHAI TEA LATTE - mix equal quantities of concentrate and cold milk together, use a hand blender (or something like an Aerolatte hand whisk) for extra froth and silkiness. Serve in glass over ice. Add extra sugar or honey to taste if required.

HOT CHAI TEA LATTE - mix equal quantities of concentrate and milk together in a pan, warm until hot, serve in a heatproof mug. Add extra sugar or honey to taste if required.

ENJOY!

PS - would just like to add that while brewing your concentrate you'll find the most amazing aromas filling your kitchen just reminding you of Christmas and spiced cookies or when you prep your apple pies for the oven...totally delicious!.....AND I kept the sieved the whole spices to dry out before consigning to the compost bin and it was just like keeping a little bowl of pot-pourri in the room. We had eaten a curry the night before and these spice aromas helped keep all the nasty niffs at bay...no need for incense sticks or chemical laden room freshener sprays.

Also...what ever you do, do NOT throw out the vanilla pod once retrieved from the liquid....these precious spices are too costly to just throw away and can actually be reused for flavouring sugars. Just dry out, break into a couple of pieces and place in a sealed jar of sugar for bakery use. It will impregnate the sugar and help make delicate flavoured tasty sponges and cookies...just remove from the sugar as you weigh it out and put the pod bits back into the jar. Top up the empty jar or as sugar levels go down and the pods can be reuses time and time again for ages.

XXX Ange XXX

Disclaimer - I am not affiliated with Starbucks, Costa or Clipper in any way, nor with the websites I have linked to and have not received any free products to advertise or use in this recipe. All ingredients are from my own store cupboards and can be purchased at any good food stores and online.

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