Edible Gift Idea: The Best Chai Tea Mix!

This is one of my absolutely favorite things to give away at the holiday time. It makes a great gift, especially if given with a hand-thrown mug and one of those long, involved novels that are best read in January. (Armchair optional.) It's also great to keep a few batches on hand as hostess or last-minute gifts.
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The beauty of this recipe is its flexibility. You can adjust any of the spices to your taste and even eliminate one altogether. I love the genius of adding candied ginger instead of fresh (which obviously won't keep) or powdered (which can make the resulting tea murky.) The red peppercorns are optional because they are quite expensive but I do love to add them for their holiday color, especially when paired up with the green cardamom pods.

The recipe below makes enough Chai to fit into a 1/2 pint canning jar and is easily multiplied out for larger batches. I try to collect jars and old tins throughout the year to fill. You can also use small bags (see sources below) or make your own from scraps of cloth. The possibilities are endless!

Chai Tea Mix Recipe
Makes about 12-16 teabags

12 green cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon whole red peppercorns (optional)
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1 4-inch cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons chopped candied ginger
1/2 cup loose black tea

Preheat oven to 350°

With a sharp knife, split the cardamom pods in half. Place in a pie tin along with the peppercorns, fennel, coriander, cloves and cinnamon. Toast in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the spices are fragrant. Remove and cool.

Crush spices lightly with a rolling pin or in a mortar and pestle. You may have to crumble the cinnamon stick with your hands.

In a bowl, toss the spices, candied ginger and tea together until blended.

Spoon into your container of choice (mason jar, cello or parchment or waxed paper bags, vintage tea tin, etc.) Include fillable tea bags and brewing instructions. Alternatively, you can fill each tea bag with approximately 1 tablespoon of the chai mix and tie it loosely to close. (But that's a lot of work if you're making several batches!)

Brewing Instructions
tea for one

1 cup of water
1/2 cup of milk
1 tablespoon of Chai Mix placed into a tea bag
Sugar or honey to taste

Bring the water to a boil and add the teabag. Turn off the heat and let steep for about 5 minutes. Add the milk, turn on the flame and reheat until hot. Remove from heat, discard teabag, sweeten to taste, enjoy!

This recipe is based on one by Maria Helm Sinskey. I've made several changes in the proportions and the brewing instructions, and added the red peppercorns, but the basic concept is hers.

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Sources: • I used PG Tips bulk loose tea from Amazon: $6.74 for 8.8 ounces. I think this is the best tea to use here because the spices will need a strong tea to stand up to them, but nothing too fancy since the primary taste will be the spice.

Penzey's is a fantastic online source for spices. Your local co-op is also a good choice, especially if they sell spices in bulk

• I use a fillable tea bags made by Adagio, found on Amazon: $12.50 for a box of 100. Note: When I last purchased these several months ago, they were half this price. I will probably try a new brand when I run out.

• The red-and-white string is from my box of miscellany but you can find spools of it online. Bell'occhio has a thicker version: $35 for a lifetime supply.

• The jar used here is a fabulous mini-Weck found at Heath Ceramics. $14.40 plus shipping for six jars. (It holds about 4 tablespoons of the mix.)

• Clear cello bags are easily found online and in craft and well-stocked kitchen supply stores. Cello Bags offers a pack of 100 for under $5.

Related: Recipe: Authentic Chai

(Images: Dana Velden)

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