...So I love the idea of trying to grow my own! I'm definitely going to give that a try! Very cool, and relevant to my interests, this article. *chuckles*
I live on tea, chai particularly, and cardamom is an essential spice I use in my personal mixture. Almost everyone I've given it to has liked it, even my husband, who's not fond of the Star Anise's licorice flavour, but loves my chai. About fifteen years ago, I was introduced to this popular Asian substitute for hot chocolate or coffee by a family from Singapore that I was helping out with a problem tenant. Weird story, there- anyway, in the process of my "guard-duties", they introduced me to chai, a strongly sweet, milky tea that I loved immediately. I've been drinking it ever since, and it amuses me that I got in on the Western popularity of it almost ten years ahead of everyone else (at least, in my hometown). Now, it's practically a staple "exotic" at places like Starbuck's. :)
For those who might be interested in making their own:
For approx ten cups of tea (yeah, I make big batches), you'll need-
10 or 11 cups of water or milk. (milk is the traditional way to make chai, but the tea tastes great with just water, too)
1 to 2 Tbsp of vanilla (artificial vanilla works fine. I use a mix of genuine and artificial)
Two big sticks of cinnamon
approx 1 Tbsp of cardamom pods (roughly four to six pods)
1 Tbsp cloves
1 to 2 Tbsp of star anise
3 or 4 slices of ginger, cut up in chunks.
1 pinch of nutmeg, though it isn't necessary
1 cup (or more to taste) of sugar, honey or low-calorie sweetener
Choose a mild black tea, green tea, or if you like a "brighter" flavour, try English Breakfast or Earl Grey (I rather like the delicate taste of Gen-maicha tea: green tea with roasted rice grains from Japan, though it's not a traditional chai tea). Fill a large soup pot with the water or milk, the whole or rough-ground spices (rough-ground gives you a much stronger flavour, especially the cinnamon note), your chosen tea leaves/bags, and the sweetener and simmer gently on low heat for about a half-hour, stirring occasionally. Do not boil, as the milk will form an unpleasant "skin" and the flavours get bitter/sour.
Served hot or over ice in tall glasses, this tea tastes so warm and chocolaty and is great on a hot day. :)
Homogenized milk works best in my opinion, though the Singapore family who taught me to make this used canned evaporated milk for their chai. Western palates might find the heavily musky sweetness of canned evaporated milk to be too much, though. For those who might be worried about the fat-content of the milk or evaporated milk, you could use 2%, 1% or skim- all will work fine. Vegans could certainly try using soy milk, but it works better if you cook your tea and spices in sweetened water, then add the soy milk (I use vanilla-flavoured), as it doesn't seem to cook well in my experience.
If you decide to make the big batch I give here, I suggest refrigerating any tea you don't drink within a couple of hours, as it tends to go sour pretty fast, especially on warm days. It's easy enough to halve the spices and quarter the milk or water amounts to make smaller batches, too, and the hard spices are re-usable for a second, even third batch. Just strain out the spices after brewing and save them in the 'fridge for later. :)
A variation on the Hot Toddy:
Brew up your chai as usual, and, in each separate cup, add an ounce of Irish Cream or Butterscotch Schnapps, top off with a dollop of whipped cream, sprinkle with cinnamon and chocolate. Share with friends and watch the moon on a clear night. Counting shooting stars during the Persied Meteor Shower with someone close on August 12th (happens ever year) is fun, too. :)
You're welcome! >^__^< Bet it would go well on a cold night during the holidays. The article made me think of the recipe, and how much of a pain in the tail it is to find cardamom in LA... I swear, only two or three stores seem to carry it. Must not be a large Indian or Middle-Eastern population here, I guess. There's a thriving community of various Middle-Eastern cultures and folks from India back home in Winnipeg. *shrugs* I really should just load up on the cardamom whenever I get a chance! :)