Getting Started: Choose Your Own Adventure
Making an iced chai at home does require some forethought – though not enough that you should let it deter you from trying. It’s really very simple! And, lucky for you, you have options. Depending on your tastes and your schedule, you could either:
- Brew your chai as normal, give it time to cool down, and then add milk and ice.
- Prep a large batch of chai concentrate and use it throughout the week.
- Cold brew your chai overnight.
Brew Chai as Normal
I expected this to take a long time, but it turned out to be one of those rare occasions when I was pleased to be wrong!
I was too impatient to wait the half hour or more it would take for my chai to come down to room temperature. So I didn’t! Instead, I used about half the water I normally would have (roughly four ounces for one teaspoon of loose leaf), which purposely made it much stronger than I generally like.
I then added a few ice cubes and stirred vigorously. In less than a minute, it was perfectly chilled and perfectly balanced. Presto!
After that, it was simply a matter of putting a handful of ice cubes in a glass, filling it halfway with the tea, and topping it off with milk and a bit of sweetener. I added a cinnamon stick to feel fancy (which I also used as a stir-stick – bonus!) and was pleased as punch.
Super Speedy Iced Chai
- 4 ounces boiling water
- 1 teaspoon loose leaf chai
- 2-4 ounces milk of choice
- Optional: sweetener of choice (honey dust, maple dust, sugar, etc.)
- Optional: cinnamon stick, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or clove
Steep tea leaves in boiling water for 4-6 minutes, depending on desired strength.
Once tea has steeped, add several ice cubes and stir vigorously until ice melts (preferably using the infuser used to steep the tea – if using infuser tongs – to get the most flavor possible.) If tea has not sufficiently cooled, repeat process with 2-3 more ice cubes.
Add milk and desired sweetener. Stir to combine.
Add several more ice cubes*, top with cinnamon stick or ground spice to garnish, and serve.
*Note: To avoid diluting your tea, use ice cubes made from frozen chai tea.
Prep a Batch of Concentrate
Tea concentrate is an awesome time saver. Simply whip up a batch over the weekend (or whenever you have the time), and you have tea for days! The concentrate should keep in your fridge for about five days, so it’s a breeze to make enough to last the work week.
Making chai concentrate is very similar to the method described above, but in a larger quantity. Brew your tea as normal, following the ratio of one teaspoon of loose leaf chai for every four ounces of water. Once it has steeped, allow it to cool (on its own, not with the cheater ice cube method I used earlier) and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to make your final beverage. Simple as that.
Now let’s talk ratios: Remember, it’s one part tea leaves to four parts water. So if you want twenty ounces of concentrate to last you the week, use four teaspoons of loose leaf chai. (It’s important to note that your concentrate will ultimately be supplemented with milk or water. So if you drink an eight-ounce cup of tea every day, you only need four ounces of concentrate per day.)
If you’re hosting a party and want enough chai for, say, ten people, use forty ounces of water and ten teaspoons of loose leaf to make your concentrate. Yay, math!
Once you have your concentrate, the instructions to complete your iced chai couldn’t be simpler: Just add water. Or, more accurately, just add whatever combination of water, milk, and ice will suit your tastes. For me, an equal portion of concentrate to milk is perfect. I leave out the extra water bit altogether. Others prefer one part concentrate to two parts milk. Play around with ratios until you find your perfect balance!
Cold Brew Overnight
Cold brewing is a phenomenal option for us night owls who never seem to have enough time in the morning – or those of us who simply don’t want to turn on our stovetops once the weather creeps past seventy degrees. In warm times, we need cold drinks.
I love tossing my infuser into a full mug right before I go to bed and waking up to a refreshingly chilled cuppa that requires absolutely no effort. It’s like discovering a little present left by one’s past self.
This is arguably the simplest method of the bunch: Use the amount of tea leaves, water, and milk you normally would to make your favorite chai. But rather than heating your liquids, pour them cold or room temperature into your favorite mug. Put the leaves into your favorite infuser. Dunk said infuser into said mug. Place the whole thing in the refrigerator overnight, and wake up to a very tasty treat! Done and done.
The Next Level: Spice It Up a Notch
Once you decide which method works best for you, you’re ready to take your chai experience to the next level! Make your local barista sigh with envy at your chai-making expertise by using these pro tips.
Concoct a honey syrup: A dollop of honey can do wonders to balance the heady, complex spices quintessential to a classic chai. Honey will not, however, dissolve in iced chai. But you, culinary whiz that you are, can easily get around this by mixing your desired amount of honey with a bit of hot water. Just enough to liquify the honey, but not so much that it will water down your chai. Probably no more than a tablespoon or two of water will be necessary. Mix the syrup in with your chai, and reap the rewards of your gastronomic genius. Or just use some honey dust, a combo of dried honey granules and raw sugar which easily dissolves in cold liquid with just a bit of stirring.
Use FROZEN TEA for ice cubes: That’s right, you heard it here: Frozen tea. For ice cubes! Brilliant. Do not fear weak and watered down iced tea. Oh, no! You are master of all chilled and frozen beverages. Not only do you know how to make iced chai tea latte, you know how to make one like a boss. Never watered down. Always perfectly balanced. And your secret weapon is... superior ice cubes.
Graduate to chai cocktails: The sweet and spicy flavors of a chai make it amazing for dessert – chai ice cream, anyone? – and amazing for cocktails. At the risk of sounding indulgent, why not combine the two by making chai ice cream, blending it up with your iced chai, adding the adult beverage of your choice, and making one heck of a grown-up milkshake?
Armed with these tips and tricks, you are now ready to make the perfect iced chai. Be kind when you break the news to your barista, though. I’m sure they’ll miss you.