A new year, a new chai recipe with less sugar

Chai. I can’t kick the habit. I don’t even know if I want to kick it.

It’s the thing I look forward to in the morning, especially on weekend mornings, when I’ve had to drag my ass out of bed at 6 a.m. to be at work by 7, and most of the rest of the city is still asleep. And especially in the winter, when it’s dark and cold in the morning, and the walk to work leaves me chilled and damp. The whole time I’m walking, I think, “I’ll just get inside and have some tea. And the morning will go fast. It won’t be so bad.”

Did I mention I recently bought a lamp with a full-spectrum light bulb for my desk at work? Seasonal affective disorder is a bummer.

And so there I am, shuffling along the street, looking forward to my chai, looking for something to brighten my morning. I realize this is probably the definition of emotional eating, if not outright addiction: I drink chai as a replacement for sleeping in.

But there you have it, and right now, I’m not strong enough to kick it. I have, however, made some dietary and financial progress with my addiction since this time last year.

I’ve generally stopped going to Starbucks (although I still love them and feel a pang of yearning whenever one of my co-workers heads in that direction), and I’ve stopped buying Tazo and other commercial chai. I make my own, and I’ve further reduced the sugar since I posted the recipe in February.

Essentially, I just cut out the honey from the first recipe. I experimented with cutting the cane sugar instead, but the tea with 1/3 cup of honey didn’t taste as sweet, and then I didn’t want to add more honey to make it sweeter since that seemed contrary to the goal of reducing the overall amount of sweetener.

I’m sure my doctor would like me to cut the sugar even more, and I  experimented with that too, but I just wasn’t happy with the taste. I figure a little at a time is better than no progress at all. Baby steps.

Chai concentrate (revised)

4 cups water

5 bags black tea

1/3 cup raw cane sugar

1 cinnamon stick

8 whole cloves

6 cardamom pods (cracked)

Combine the water, sugar, tea and spices in a saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves. Simmer for about 15 minutes (although if you are rushed, and I often am, you can squeak by with about 5 minutes).

Strain the liquid and store it in the refrigerator. I use a Mason jar with a plastic cap for this. The Mason jar is good because it can tolerate the heat if I don’t have time to let the liquid cool before straining.

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

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