I am marginally obsessed with chai syrup. I put it in milk, on porridge, or just drink it neat (cue blush-faced emoji). There is a brand made by a company in Bath called Henny and Joe’s, which was pretty life-changing for me. I first discovered it at my local Sunday market, and, to add to the tantalising excitement of my love affair with this stuff, they weren’t always there every week, meaning that some weeks I was left bereft. So given the unreliability of access to my next fix, I decided that the only thing to do was have a bash at making some myself.
Recipes seem to include a vast variety of spices, some with star anise, some ginger, some cloves. However, I decided to just make it up as I go along (as per usual), which involved the prominence of the things I love – vanilla and ginger – and the omission of those I don’t – cloves and star anise. Cloves I have a particular aversion to, as they are apparently a home remedy for toothache, so since childhood I have associated the taste with acute dental pain. Recipes vary between using honey and sugar, I used both – some honey that my Mum bought back from Greece, along with muscovado sugar (my insatiable sweet tooth being the culprit that resulted in the aforementioned trips to the dentist).
This syrup is less aniseed-y than some would like, so feel free to add a few cloves or a star anise if that’s what floats your boat. I also used loose leaf tea flavoured with chocolate, as that was the only one I had, but any loose leaf tea (or a normal tea-bag) will work fine. Keep tasting it as you go along, and adjust the levels of spices to taste. For me it’s that magical balance between sweet from the honey and cinnamon, and spicy from the pepper or star anise that makes this syrup so addictive. I imagine the syrup would keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for a few weeks, but it’ll never lasts that long if I’ve got anything to do with it.
1 tbsp loose leaf tea
2 tsp pink peppercorns
1 tsp black peppercorns
3 tsp cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 vanilla pod
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp brown sugar
a thumb sized piece of fresh ginger
Put 500ml of water in a pan over a medium heat. When it’s started to simmer, stir in the honey and sugar until dissolved. Crush the pepper and cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar, just to break them up slightly, then add them to the pan. Peel the ginger and cut in half, then score the vanilla pod lengthways and add both to the mix, then finally the ground spices and tea. Simmer the mixture for about 20 minutes, then take off the heat and leave to infuse for a further 15 mins. Strain the syrup through a sieve into a sterilised jar, then seal and keep in the fridge.