Tag Archives: Drinks

Tea Find – Kalahari Organic

As much as I love coffee, I have a bit of a tea obsession.  I like to collect different varieties and brands, drinking them much slower than their rate of purchase to savor the accumulation of comforting future moments.  I drink black or mate when I’m tired, rooibos after dessert, and an herbal tisane before bed.  I also make my own herbals out of mint and chamomile and rose hips in the garden.  Still, I can’t get enough. 

I recently discovered Kalahari’s line of Chocolattes, specifically Raspberry Latte, and let me say if I wasn’t on vacation, I would’ve tossed more than one of each in my cart.   They looked delightful: Hazelnut Mocha, Matcha Mint.  To my surprise the Raspberry Latte tasted exactly as one would expect: a hint of ripe red berry, a smooth undercurrent of rich dark cacao melted with slight sweetness of rooibos.  It’s divine with a bite of dark chocolate or as a complement to dessert.  Their other teas sound wonderful too: Highlands Honey, Limpopo Lemon, Zambezi Red Chai.

Which leads to the question: where to get it?  I’ll be scouring my local grocery store soon but with my predilection maybe online ordering is the best option.  The tea comes in individually wrapped sachets and they offer a special discount for bulk orders.  Purchase 6 boxes of a flavor and get $3 off your order total.  Teavana, I’m whispering but you just might have a competitor.

Homemade Masala Chai

Namaste!

Do I have a delicious masala chai recipe for you.  It’s simple, so simple, in fact, that you’re gonna wonder why you haven’t made it before. Once mastered from scratch, you can forget about chai concentrate or those weird powder mixes. Made fresh, it’s heavenly and fills your house with the delicate scent of warm spices. It’s also fragrances your garbage can for the day, which is an unexpected, but suprisingly wonderful bonus.

So what is chai exactly?

In South Asia, Chai is a generic term referring to any type of tea.  Masala chai is Hindi for literally “spiced tea”. Chai tea, as Americans so often say, is “tea tea”, but we dont’ speak Hindi so that’s just a funny linguistic thing. If you visit India (and you definately should!), you will come to one conclusion very quickly – Indians drink a lot of masala chai. It’s served like the English serve tea: during social calls, consumed at breakfast or after lunch. Also expect it whenever you visit a shopkeeper, that is, every shopkeeper.  They bring it out steaming on little trays, a friendly smile on their faces, and it’s lovely.

Originally an ayurvedic remedy, masala chai is now consumed with the same fervor with which Americans consume coffee. Everyone has their individual recipes and this one is handed down to me by my mother-in-law. She drinks it every morning before the sun rises, sharing it with her cleaning lady, Gulabi. I’ve made a few modifications of my own, but feel free to experiment with a variety of “warm” spices and quantities. Just make sure to add milk, and if you’re inclined, some type of sugar.

Masala Chai Recipe

  • Green Cardamom, about 6-10, crushed on countertop
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks, cracked in half
  • Whole Black Pepper, 2 heaping tbsp
  • Fennel or Anise, 1 heaping tbsp
  • Ginger, fresh, 1 tbsp or so peeled and grated/cut up  (I never grate – it’s a hassle with no great benefit.  Do not use powder!   Also, keeps in the fridge for a few weeks)
  • Whole Cloves, 15 (or one or two large pinches)
  • Nutmeg, a few shakes
  • Earl Grey Tea (or Black Tea Leaves)  – use two tea bags per conventional size sauce pan or if loose, 2 tbsp

Note concerning spice usage:  when in doubt about quantity, use more.  Before you add the Earl Grey Tea, the spice/water mixture should be darkish brown and very concentrated.  Although this chai recipe will taste different from the chai you get at a coffee shop, it should never be bland or watery.

Directions:  Fill sauce pan close to brim with water.  Boil spices without the tea until you get a thick concentrate, ususally 1/3 to 1/2 reduced.  You want the cinnamon sticks and cardamom to open.  Take off heat.  Steep Earl Grey tea or black tea in spice concentrate for a few minutes.  About using Earl Grey: I prefer the slight undertone of bergamot and also find that Earl Grey has a less astringent taste than other black teas.  It give the masala chai a smoother finish instead of overpowering the spice with a slightly bitter aftertaste.  Note: do not cheat and use powdered versions of the spices.  The only exception is nutmeg, if you don’t have the time nor inclination to grate it.

Add milk and sugar and enjoy!  Depending on how much milk you prefer, the chai should be a cappucinno type color or lighter, like this.

The Art of Fine Coffee

“He was my cream, and I was his coffee – And when you poured us together, it was something.”
– Josephine Baker

A list of coffee awesomeness

Steep & Brew

If you thirst for flavored coffee beyond the realm of hazelnut and french vanilla, you must try this brand.  Roasted from only the highest quality beans – the top 2 or 1 percent – they boast 25 delectable varieties including my faves Irish Whiskey & Cream, Highlander Grog, and Amaretto French Roast.  Select seaonsal roasts are available for when your in the mood for let’s say, Chestnuts by the Fire or Dark Chocolate Mint, and summer absolutely calls for Basket of Berries.  The aroma alone is happiness inducing.

Click about their site and you’ll also discover the unusual – orange cappucinno – and twists on some old standbys like Icing on the Cake (cinnamony-cakey delight) and Chocolate Nirvana (cocoa and spices, oh my!).  Another great thing about Steep & Brew? Shipping is $5, no matter how much you order.  And even without reasonable shipping, their coffee is a steal! A 12oz bag runs on average $6.50.  How’s that for frugal java?

For those loving the organic fair-trade coffee and chemical free decaf, you’ll find plenty of options too.  And if you think flavoring is a perversion in coffee, make sure to peruse their signature roasts and dark roasts.

Live in the Midwest?  Make sure you search their store locator!

Nespresso Aeroccino

Milk like whipped cream, frothed to perfection?  It is possible without a) an espresso machine and b) steam.  Push button, wait 50 seconds for the cold milk to both warm and froth, and voila!  Use it for lattes, cappucinnos, hot chocolate – the list is endless.  Best off all, the Aerocinno plugs into an outlet (so you don’t have to stand there and froth!), is simp to clean, and works like a charm for around $100. If you’re thinking “eek” about the price, keep reading.  It’s not a coffee accessory you want, believe me, it’s one you need.  Steamers fail, handheld wand frothers break, and stovetop ones are just a pain.  I can attest through experience, you’re better off just shelling out the dough in the beginning.

Interested? Watch the cheesiest promo for the Aeroccino. Not sure what they were thinking with the jazz and throaty vocals but hey, it’ll make you laugh about being gourmet!

Espresso Machine or French Press

My husband and I travel with our espresso machine, no joke.  It’s an addiction and one I wouldn’t trade for the world.  Well, maybe the world, but who’s offering anyway?

My number one advice with the espresso machine: one can always start small.  Our first machine was somewhere around $200 and we’ve upgraded from there based on our ever-pressing need for thicker crema.  But if you’re holding your guns to drip coffee, consider the French Press.  It’s portable – great for the office when everybody else is drinking burnt morning brew in the afternoon.  And since it captures coffee’s essential oils and depth of flavor, the French Press delivers a stronger, thicker coffee than the drip.

Organic Milk & Agave Nectar

Organic milk tastes richer, froths better, and well, it’s organic.  A must have for superior taste and natural sweetness.  As for Agave Nectar, the only reason this is worth mentioning is that processed white cane sugar not only has all the nutrients stripped from it, it also slightly alters the flavor.  While inessential to most American style coffee drinkers, agave nectar or demerara sugar (brown) will lend a subtle sweetness to espresso without disturbing the rich balance of acidic and bitter flavors.  Try it for a few days.  I’d wager you won’t go back to processed sugar.