Chai is the security blanket that kick starts my day

I’ve been trying to wean myself off Starbucks for months. It seemed silly, all the money I was spending there.

But I can’t give up chai. I just can’t. It gives me a boost of sugar and caffeine in the morning to get me going. I’d probably never make it to work otherwise. As it is, I’m always five minutes late. Sometimes 10.

And, my addiction _ like all addictions _ isn’t just physical. It’s mental. Having a cup of chai sitting at my desk with me makes me feel safe. It’s that little happy thing that makes up for all the verbal abuse the writers dish out and the general stress of a job in which everything can always be done better and faster. The situation sucks, but at least there’s chai.

To save money, I started buying Tazo chai concentrate at the grocery store. I’d warm it up, mix it with milk, pour it into my insulated mug, slap on the lid and off I’d go, all set for another day. It was just like going to Starbucks because, well, Starbucks makes Tazo.

Then, about two weeks ago, my grocery store stopped stocking Tazo chai. They have Vanilla Rooibos, but that doesn’t do it for me.

In such circumstances, there’s really only one thing to do: Break out the cookbooks and crank up the Web. I tried a New York Times recipe, and then I looked at a couple on allrecipes.com and FoodPress.

But the one I’ve ended up working with comes from Greg Atkinson’s West Coast Cooking. I knew it was special when I read the introduction to the recipe, and he talked about the creation of Oregon Chai. His recipe, which as far as I can tell is in his book but not online, does in fact taste just like Oregon Chai.

That’s a bit sweet for me. I adjusted, adding water, cutting sugar and reducing the cinnamon just a bit because cinnamon sticks have become wildly expensive in my grocery. My chai is now perfect for my taste, and what I really like is that the syrup works just like the commercial kind. I mix one part syrup to one part milk, microwave it a bit, and I’m good to go.

Chai concentrate

4 cups water

6 bags black tea

1/3 cup Demerara sugar

1/3 cup honey

1 cinnamon stick

8 whole cloves

6 cardamom pods (cracked)

Combine the water, sugar and honey in a saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves. Add tea and spices. Simmer for about 15 minutes.

At this point, you need to strain it, but I usually let it cool a bit first, just because hot liquid can be hard to handle. After you strain the tea, store it in the refrigerator. A Mason jar with a cap is great for this.

To drink, add one part concentrate to one part milk and warm.

Note: You can also use loose leaf black tea. I just can’t get it in my grocery store. Insanity, I know! I usually just cut the bags open and dump the tea in the pan.

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