I am so obsessed with this spice blend! It encapsulates the coming seasons of autumn and winter for me. I’ve been drinking chai tea for a while now and have often thought about making my own spice blend. When I attended the tea workshop a few weeks ago I made a note to myself to actually do it, so after some research and trial and error, this is it!
The history of chai tea or rather ‘masala chai’ is fascinating. It is said that it was created by a King in an ancient royal court as a healing drink with Ayurvedic origins. At that time, the tea did not contain any black tea and was caffeine free. When the British were creating tea plantations in India, they wanted to find a way of making black tea popular there, however plain black tea lacked mass appeal, and it wasn’t until they started making a milky sweet spiced chai (masala chai) that tea drinking really took off in India. Masala Chai is really the correct name for drinking tea in this way as ‘chai’ simply means ‘tea’. However, for this recipe I’m going with the name ‘chai’ as the most common name and understanding!
Once I’d made the blend of spices I’ve been using it in all sorts of foods, not just tea! When you have that spice blend it can be added to all sorts of recipes where the flavour will work well. It’s great as a flavouring for porridge, smoothies, pancakes and works really well to create a spiced coffee when added to some ground beans in the brewing process.
Once you have a little jar of the spice blend handy it means that you can create delicious chai spiced beverages without the added sugar and chemical nasties you find in a lot of chai syrups and latte mixes. This is also great for vegans who are looking to make their own diary free lattes. In fact I decided to make a twist on the traditional masala chai using coconut milk, and also in some delicious muffins! But first, here is the simple spice blend recipe:
- 4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp of ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- pinch black pepper
- 6 cardamon pods (optional)
- Combine all the ground spices and black pepper together in a small jar. If using, break open the cardamon pods and grind the seeds into a fine powder using a pestle and mortar or even the back of a spoon on a chopping board to crush them. Add to the spice blend.
- This makes a small amount, but feel free to double up the ingredients to make more.
I tried out a few different ratios of spices before I went with this mix. Feel free to adjust according to your own tastes, I love cloves so have added a little more to my own mix. I didn’t put the star anise in the spice recipe as I use them whole in the tea…
- 1 black tea bag or 1 tbsp loose leaf black tea
- 1 tsp of chai spice mix
- 1/3 cup full fat tinned coconut milk
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tbsp of coconut sugar (or sweetener of choice)
- 1 star anise (optional)
- Add all ingredients to a pan and heat to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes then allow to cool for 2 before straining into a glass. Enjoy immediately!
This version of masala chai is sweetened with traditional coconut sugar or jaggery as in India. The coconut milk gives it a lovely creaminess, but feel free to use regular milk or half milk and water. I have read that it is important to use something with a decent amount of fat in to really get the flavours out, so semi skimmed at the least, or preferably whole milk would work best. For the tea, cheap black tea is traditionally used in India so although I used a good quality organic loose leaf, don’t feel bad for throwing in a cheap tea bag!
I was really excited to use the spice blend in a baked recipe as I knew it would taste amazing! I decided to make something seasonal…
- 2 large free range eggs
- 1 cup of tinned pumpkin (or use any cooked and well mashed squash such as butternut, sweet potato would also work)
- 1/2 cup of coconut sugar (natural caster sugar would also work)
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 cup wholegrain spelt flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp of chai spice blend
- walnuts or pecans for topping
- Pre heat the oven to 180
- Line a muffin tin with liners
- Combine the eggs, pumpkin, coconut sugar and vanilla in a bowl.
- Warm the coconut oil in a microwave until it becomes liquid. Mix into the other wet ingredients.
- Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices to the wet ingredients mixing well.
- Divide the mix between the muffin liners filling them 3/4 full.
- Add the nuts on top if using.
- Bake for 20 minutes until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.
These muffins have a great texture, a mild spiced flavour and a delicate sweetness. If you prefer things sweeter, or are serving these to people who are used to sweeter baked goods, then increase the amount of coconut sugar, or add a couple of tablespoons of natural caster sugar. You could also add various add ins such as chocolate chips, chopped dates, dried cranberries, all of which will add their own sweetness.
I’ve been eating these topped with some thick Greek yoghurt which goes really well with the warming spices. Not only are these muffins delicious, they are seriously healthy too! They are free from refined sugar, packed with fibre from the spelt flour and pumpkin and a source of healthy fat from the eggs and coconut oil.
Are you a fan of chai spices?