Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Taos Ashram Chai Tea

I spent one blissful summer during college living in dramatic Taos, NM, where the mountains are steep and the food is lovingly made by hippies. My favorite place was the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram, where there was always music, flowers, chai, chanting, and a fragrant meal just around the corner - usually served up in one of those giant 10 gallon stockpots you see in movies. I was 20. I didn't have anything to worry about, and neither did anyone else at the ashram, where the kitchen is considered a sacred space.

That was my first encounter with chai tea, which I loved immediately and have been happy to see eventually fill the menus of every barista joint in the nation, even if the mix they use isn't quite the same. The ashram's recipe is from India, and it's far superior. The warming qualities of the ginger, cardamon, and cinnamon are perfect for the middle of winter. It makes three quarts to serve a crowd, or just to last a little while in the fridge:

Maharaji's Taos Ashram Chai

2 quarts water
3 oz fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp cardamon, crushed
1 cinnamon stick
2-3 black peppercorns
1/4-1/3 cup loose black tea (depending on strength, Assam is ideal)
1/4-1/2 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
1 quart milk or soy milk

Boil the water with the ginger, cardamon, cinnamon, and peppercorns for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the loose tea leaves. Let steep for five to seven minutes. Add the sugar and milk. Bring to just barely to a boil, and then strain out the spices before enjoying.

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