My blender was just about full. I took a deep breath, and added the last item. It was a heaping tablespoon of honey. Like all chai blends, this one had plenty of subtle sweetness, but calling it “robust” would have been an understatement. The cinnamon and cloves were practically aggressive.
The first sip was intense: spicy, with bold, fragrant flavors that danced in my mouth. If I hadn’t been paying attention, I might have missed the figs entirely. But I knew they were there. And as I sipped again and again, the figs grew stronger – until suddenly the two tastes had fused into something new: a warm, sweet fruitiness that brought to mind both figs and chai spices at the same time.
I’d made this blend as an experiment, but it tasted so good that I got out a spoon and ate some of the figs right out of the blender.”
This is for all the chai lovers out there! We love chai here at Fig & Cinnamon and we love to experiment with it. Here’s one of our new favorites: Cinnamon Chai.
Mix together 2 parts Chai Tea, 1 part Creme de Cassis, 1/4 part ground cinnamon and 1/2 part of your favorite honey. Heat thoroughly over a double boiler or in a microwave safe container. Enjoy!
(If you’re feeling adventurous, add some fresh grated ginger too!)
The cinnamon and the fig are both strong flavors, so a little goes a long way. The combination is also a little odd, but that’s what makes it interesting. It’s one of my favorite flavor combinations—it’s really special in tea, but would work well in a lot of different applications.
1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/16 teaspoon whole cloves
2 teaspoons cinnamon chips
3 pods cardamom (fresh or dried)
2-3 cups water
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread the fennel and the cloves on an ungreased baking sheet and toast for about 5 minutes, or until you can smell the aroma of the spices. Remove from the oven and crush the spices in a mortar and pestle or with a rolling pin. You can also put them in a tightly sealed container and crush them with something heavy, like a cast iron skillet. Put the spices into a medium sized saucepan with 1-2 cups of water. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Strain liquid through a fine mesh strainer into another saucepan (or use another saucepan if you don’t mind cleaning). Add sugar, honey or agave nectar
I’ve been a big fan of Fig and Cinnamon tea for a while now, and when I was at the grocery store recently I saw that they had some whole cinnamon sticks. You can get them at the spice section, or sometimes they’re in the produce section.
Chai, the spiced tea beverage found in most Indian restaurants, is one of my favorite things. In fact, I may just have a problem: I take chai very seriously.
I know that if you look at the ingredients of the chai served at any Indian restaurant in America, you will see that it contains cinnamon and cardamom. And I can taste both of those spices in every cup of chai I drink. Yet somehow every time I get a cup, it tastes different from any other chai I’ve had before. And there are subtle differences – some cups are sweeter than others, some are more spicy or aromatic. I think many of these variations come from the other spices that each restaurant adds to its chai concentrate; perhaps they serve a different blend at each restaurant. Whatever they do, however they make their chai, it’s delicious.
But what if you wanted to try making your own? What would be the best way?
That’s what this post is about: exploring whether there is an ideal cinnamon-cardamom-based chai recipe out there (and if so, how to find it), and then figuring out how to make our own approximation of it at home.
I’ve never been much for recipes. I’ve been cooking for years, and the best way to learn how to cook is just to start making things from scratch. But when I started thinking about what kinds of foods I wanted to make this time around, one category that popped into my mind was chai.
I had been wanting to try making some chai at home, but it’s a pretty different process than just brewing up a cup of tea. You don’t just brew up some loose-leaf black tea and add sugar and cream; instead there are spices involved, and you have to boil the whole thing up together.
Thing is, I didn’t know what to do with the spices once they were in the pot (figuratively speaking). So I decided to do some research on chai recipes, and what spices go well with each other.
Cinnamon and its relative, the dried bark of the cassia tree, have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. Cassia is a more pungent spice than cinnamon, with a sweet and spicy flavor that is great in stews and curries. It is generally sold ground or as sticks.
It is native to China, but these days both types are grown across Asia and in Central America. The cinnamon tree has been cultivated for at least 4,000 years by people living along the southern coast of Asia, especially Sri Lanka.
The Spanish were probably the first Europeans to encounter both kinds of cinnamon. They brought them back home with them from their explorations in Asia during the early 1500s.
Cassia was discovered in China around 100 BCE, where it was called kwei-lin (or “sweet wood”). Cinnamon was highly valued as a luxury item by the Romans who conquered Egypt around 30 BCE. By that time they had already learned about cinnamon from their Middle-Eastern trading partners.