chai tea concentrate

Hello, frenz.

I’m sitting here on the couch, conducting mental warfare against the tin of caramel popcorn “hiding” atop the jelly cupboard. I want to eat it all. I shouldn’t. I probably will anyway. Self-control is hard. 

A few gallons of milk are [new word alert] rennetizing on the stove top for a batch of Butterkäse, and soon I’ll have to pop up off the sofa and go cut the curd— 

Speaking of large kettles (in a roundabout way, I suppose, since saying “a few gallons of milk” is the same as saying “I’m using a large pot”): I have been asking around to all my friends, searching for a 6-8 gallon pot to borrow for cheesemaking. I could buy one (like this), but I’d really like to try a big batch of cheese to see how it works before spending the money. I thought that surely someone would have a big pot banging around their attic, but no. NO ONE has a large pot. I mean, everyone has large pots, or at least they think they do, but then they go check and it’s only a four-gallon pot, like the one I have which is, apparently, the largest size that homecooks tend to use. So I guess I’m condemned to making cheese in four-gallon increments. 

There’s also a pie in the oven — sweet cherry with an almond coconut crumb topping (I’ve yet to find a sweet cherry pie I like) — and there are two pans of half-baked granola sitting on the table waiting to pop back into the oven. Also, there’s a batch of chai tea concentrate cooling on the counter, and my younger son is washing up the first big round of dishes from today. 

It’s a cozy, deliciously dreary day and, once the butterkäse is in the press, I’m gonna go for a walk because I read this post and now I’m feeling inspired so I better quick take advantage. 

But first, back to that chai tea concentrate.

Last week I made a gallon batch, as per the instructions, but even though I cut back on the sugar, I still found it too sweet. Plus, it wasn’t spicy enough. So I made it again today, this time in a smaller quantity, with less sugar and more spice. Once I get back from my walk, I’ll fix myself a chai to sip while I make supper. 

Except: what to make? I’ve been consistently bumping up against this problem so maybe, prior to making anything, I should sit down, cup of chai in hand, and map out a menu for the next few days.

Yes, that’s what I’ll do. 

I started with two full quarts. A bunch of water boiled away,
so next time I’ll start with a little more water to account for evaporation.

P.S. The popcorn’s all gone.

P.P.S. The cheese is pressing.

P.P.P.S. I went on the walk and visited on the phone with my older daughter for a couple of those miles…

P.P.P.P.S. Pie’s baked!

P.P.P.P.P.S. Supper’s gonna be a tinned beef stew (I found in the pantry) over rice, peas, Magpie biscuits, pie and ice cream.  

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Just realized, sipping this tea, that it didn’t taste much stronger than the first batch and then I realized I’d forgotten the ginger, ha! (It’s still good, though.)

Chai Tea Concentrate
Adapted from Kate’s recipe from Venison For Dinner.

Since I want to have this tea as a bedtime option, I made this with decaf. I would’ve used loose leaf, which is more economical, but our grocery didn’t have any.

Been reading up on additions. Some ideas: use honey or brown sugar instead of white. Add star anise. Try some allspice, or some fennel. Maple syrup. Vanilla. I feel like that’s straying pretty far from the original stuff, but if you like it, does that really matter?

2 quarts water (plus a couple extra cups, since some will evaporate)
4 cinnamon sticks
20 whole black peppercorns
12 whole cloves
⅓ cup cardamom pods
⅔ cup chopped fresh ginger
½ teaspoon salt
12-16 decaf black tea bags
¾ cup white sugar

Rough-crush the cinnamon, pepper, cloves, and cardamom pods. It doesn’t need to be a powder, but break them up enough that they release more of their flavor. Working in batches, I used my little mortar and pestle.

Put the water in a kettle and add the spices, ginger, and salt. Bring to a boil before reducing the heat to low, lidding, and simmering for about 45 minutes. Add the tea bags and sugar and simmer another 10 minutes. Strain the tea concentrate (discard the spices and tea) and store in jars in the fridge. 

To serve: heat a mixture of milk and tea concentrate in a saucepan — I use about a third cup concentrate and two-thirds cup milk, but you can do less or more, according to taste — and then pour into a mug.

This same time, years previous: #holdtheline2020, egg bagels, sour cream coffee cake, apple dumplings, 2015 garden stats and notes, cheesy broccoli potato soup, sweet and sour lentils.


  • Marie Nicholson-Hutt

    I wonder if you have any Desi (South Asian) cook friends. They sometimes have a large aluminum pot for making tons of biryani or palou in, generally over a separate camp stove outside. Also I got a large pan from restaurant depot that can fit 40 lb of chicken in, as well. Wish I could lend it (them) to you, but we’re in Colorado. Good luck. Nice idea for the chai concentrate. I might make that for my hubby. He literally makes his own with loose leaves in the microwave at night and just slowly sips as to not drink the tea grounds. Lol.

  • Anna

    “…cozy, deliciously dreary”- yes! This is what people like about fall, and it’s perfect for baking. We had our first real such day yesterday (fall comes late to central Texas), and I made bread. My chai was brewed from a bag, but who’s checking.

  • backuppunter

    Thanks so much for sharing yourself through your writings and photos.
    Our church just had a workshop focusing on Drew Hart’s recent book–“Who will be a witness”
    I wished for your input. I am pretty sure you would appreciate the thought provoking challenges he raises. The book is available at Amazon. I would encourage you to consider reading it.

    Keep writing


  • katie

    Maybe a cafe you are friends with? Or a church kitchen? Or a YMCA camp that isn’t hosting campers right now? They have big pots!

    We have a long history of making chai concentrate. I don’t measure anything so your recipe looks about similar. However, I say yes! on fennel. It adds a warmth to the mixture. And when in doubt, I go light on cloves. I feel like they can add a medicinal quality when overdone. I like to juice my ginger to make sure I get all the goodness and if I want the final product spicier, add extra ginger/black pepper. Depends on the audience… Finally, and this is totally personal, I do not like to add sugars that add any other flavors. To me, the point of this is the spices and tea, not the sweetener.

    • Jennifer Jo

      A CHURCH KITCHEN!!! Excellent suggestion. Drafting an email now.

      And thanks for the chai tips! I’m actually going to simmer a bit of ginger and add that to my jars of concentrate. Might pop some fennel in there, too.

  • Becky R.

    Does no one have a canner that holds more than 4 gallons? I think my old canner holds a lot more than that. Just a thought. As always, I admire your industry. I have been walking lately, but I need to dedicate myself to daily walks. I always feel so much better when I blow the stink off!

    • Jennifer Jo

      My largest canner might do five gallons — not sure — but whatever the material it is, it’s worn down and gross and would impart a flavor. (And I was just checking into pressure canners, but they’re not that much bigger and a big too heavy for all the lifting and tipping I need to do.)

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