The Best Vegan Chai Tea In Minneapolis
Here's how to make the vegan chai tea I love so much. This is seriously the best chai tea that you can get anywhere, and here is how you can make it in your own kitchen, with nothing but the tools you already have lying around your house. You can serve it hot or cold. There are two ways of making it, either vegetarian/vegan with rice or coconut milk, or traditional with real milk.
It's really a pretty easy and forgiving process, you mash up some spices and slice some ginger root, simmer them in water, add tea, milk and sugar, filter and then you're done. I go into way too much detail on what works 'best' below, but I'm really trying to make it as good as possible, not just bang something out.
It's kind of like my way of doing web programming - you could just do 'a website' and call it good, or you could look in detail at every tiny aspect of the site and how it works together, working to make the best possible website. I'm a perfectionist, so it's always the best that I strive for.
- 8 cups water
- 2-3" piece of ginger root (to taste)
- 1 1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 8 whole cloves
- 14 cardamom pods
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 1 piece ginseng root (optional)
- 8 bags of black tea (I use Earl Grey)
- 2 cups rice milk (or real milk if you're not making the vegan version)
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- Large pot with lid
- Plastic ziploc bag
- Mortar and Pestle (in place of plastic bag and hammer)
- Flat spoonish thing with holes
- Ladle or other scooping utensil
- Press-pot coffee maker (aka French Press) or other straining apparatus
1) Put water in pot, start heating it up on high heat, covered
2) Slice ginger root in half, then slice halves into thin slivers.
The thinner they are, the more ginger flavor the end result will have. I typically go between 1/16" and 1/8"
3) Place the next 4 (or 5, if using ginseng) ingredients in plastic bag and pound with hammer.
I typically do pepper and cloves together, then add the cardamom, then the cinnamon. Each needs a different amount of grinding, and this allows me to hit them properly with the hammer without some getting over pounded, and others getting under pounded.
- Black peppercorns - I like to just break apart each corn, don't pound these too much or you will end up with very spicy / hot chai
- Cloves - I pound these into nearly dust. They will disintegrate in the boiling process, anyway, the key is to not use too many cloves. Typically the rule is 1 clove per cup of water.
- Cardamom - I just break the pods apart to get the seeds loose. You don't want to break apart the seeds or you will end up with very bitter flavor, rather than sweet
- Cinnamon Sticks - I use the side of the hammer to break these into thin strips about 3/4" - 1", by about 1/16" to 1/8" wide. You don't want to break these up too much. Also, it's worth noting that while you may think you could use cinnamon powder instead of sticks, you can't. It just doesn't dissolve right, and it gums up the filter on the french press when you strain the mixture.
- Ginseng Root - I just break this up as much as possible. The dried stuff that I get from United Noodle is really hard, and takes some real pounding to break apart. Some of it ends up powdered, some ends up in 1/4" sized chunks. It adds a little bit of a metallic zing to the chai, and gives it more of a kick than just tea will do.
4) Pour contents of bag into the water, give a good stir. It should be getting close to simmering by now.
5) Optional - open the tea bags if individually wrapped. This keeps you near to the water and gives you something to do while waiting for it to boil. Typically about the time I set out the eighth tea bag, the water is boiling.
6) Reduce heat as soon as the water starts boiling, keep at a low rolling simmer. Lid should be partially cracked to allow steam to escape, but not too much steam.
7) Low boil for 10 minutes
8) Turn off heat
9) Add black tea.
The tea is preferably Darjeeling, but I've found just about any black tea will do.
10) Steep for 5 minutes
11) Remove tea bags
12) Use big slotted spoon to strain
Try to get out as much of the ginger root and other ingredients as possible. This is kind of optional, but makes the next step easier.
13) Add brown sugar and rice or regular milk.
This is really to taste, you can also add coconut, soy or almond milk. The vanilla flavors add a little extra to it as well. Some people even leave the milk out of this step entirely and simply add it when they go to drink each glass.
- If using non-dairy milk, simply stir until the brown sugar is completely dissolved
- If using regular milk, heat up the chai again until just almost ready to boil again, but not actually to boiling. You just want to get the milk to thicken a little bit. If you take it too far, the milk will curdle a little bit and make little floaters. This is one reason I use rice milk.
14) Using ladle (or other scooping device) scoop chai tea into press-pot
15) Strain into pitcher or other container for storage if not drinking right away.
I use the carafe from my old toddy cold-press coffee maker, even though it says 'not for hot liquids'. You probably shouldn't do this, even though it is shown in the photo.
16) Pour chai tea into cup, drink and enjoy.
You can drink it warm or cold, I usually microwave each glass of mine but keep it in the fridge. In the summer I drink it cold, often over ice.
Obviously, it's step number 16 that is the most important!
Big thanks to Anthony Kwan aka khc1013 for taking the photos for this page.