I like to tease people when they ask for "chai tea" at coffee shops. In India, chai = tea, so by saying chai tea, you're just saying 'tea tea'. Nothing wrong with that, mind, as chai is so delicious, everyone wants to say it twice, right?
Chai is also so delicious that it should not be reserved for just the cold winter months. These chai creamsicles are an easy way to jazz up your winter drink for hot summer days.
If you were in India and asked for chai, you'd be getting your bog standard strong black builder's tea with milk and sugar. If you said chai tea, you'd get the same tea, but with a puzzled look thrown in, for good measure. Chai tea latte? Tea tea with milk? Let's not go there, shall we?
If you want the spiced, aromatic tea we refer to as "chai tea" here, then you'll need to ask for "masala chai." Masala chai has humble origins. Spices were infused into tea that was drunk by Indians, with the likely reason being to hide the fact that this tea was inferior to the tea exported by the British.
There are as many recipes for chai as there are people in India...erm, which is a lot. This one here, for example, is my own recipe for masala chai. This one here, is Leela's. I use the combination of spices and fresh ginger I like, but I have found that people will always tinker with the proportions and add their own spices, and that is perfectly okay. If someone claims that their recipe for chai is the only one, well, all I can say is that there will be plenty of Indian families ready to jump on them.
There is, and should be, no snobbery associated with chai. If there is, you've missed the whole point of chai. It is a democratic drink, enjoyed by everyone from the street sweeper to the prime minister. To put it poetically, chai is India! India with all its chaos and contradictions, yet sublime and spiritual, hot, sweet and dusty, loud and quiet at the same time, highbrow, yet common, manically busy, but somehow blending together peace in a magical way. Any way you look at it, it is an experience to be savored and remembered for life.
When I have time, I will make this gorgeous, but slightly time consuming chai ice cream, but more often than not, I turn to this super simple recipe for creamsicles to get my chilled chai fix without the extra effort. For an authentic experience, I have recommended various kinds of tea in the recipe notes. If you want to serve this to kids, decaffeinated tea works well.
Makes 10 pops, depending on your molds.
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
3/4 cup sugar + extra, if required
3 tablespoons strong black loose leaf tea (see recipe notes)
1 inch piece of ginger, sliced
For the chai spice mix:
1 teaspoon green cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
3 inch piece of cinnamon or 1 tablespoon cassia bark
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole black pepper
1 star anise
Place the milk, 1 cup of the cream, and sugar in a pot. Add the black tea and bring to a gentle simmer (don't let it boil). Simmer for a minute, then take off the heat and let the tea steep for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring every so often (depending on how strong you like your chai).
Strain into a clean pot and add the ginger. Place all the chai spices in a large mortar and pestle and crush coarsely. Add the spices to the milk mixture, and bring back to a simmer. Remove from heat and let the spices infuse fully in the chai, about 30 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup cream. Taste and add more sugar if you like your chai sweeter.
Once cold, strain the mixture into a large bowl, and chill in the fridge for about an hour.
Once completely cold, pour the mixture into your popsicle molds, being careful not to overfill, and top with popsicle sticks. Freeze until completely set.
Run water over the molds to unmold and enjoy.
- You can replace the heavy cream with half and half (10%) or coffee cream (18%). The creamsicles won't be as creamy and might tend to get a little icier, but will still taste gorgeous.
- You can also use 3 teabags of black tea, but they will take longer to steep in the milk.
- I prefer using strong black Assam, Ceylon or Nilgiri loose leaf tea.
- If you want a more authentic masala chai taste and color, replace the loose leaf tea with 2 to 3 tablespoons of granulated CTC tea, available at Asian groceries and some large supermarkets. Add the tea granules, bring to the boil, turn off the heat and stir until the chai turns golden. Strain immediately. Follow the remaining steps, as instructed.
(Image credits: Michelle Peters-Jones)