Last year Mike and I discovered this lovely Indian restaurant right down the road from our house in Lakewood. Great Cuisine of India is one of those little low-key places where the food is so good it’s hard to know when to stop eating. It was there, at a nondescript table overlooking the parking lot, that I discovered how much I adore chai tea. The first time I had it, I could not stop thinking about it for weeks. In the dead of winter the aroma of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and cloves preached to me like a sermon at a Baptist tent revival. It was so good I could have literally fallen to the floor in rapture if I didn’t have good manners. This is my clue that it likely has a load of added sugar and therefore it is a false prophet sent by the devil. I mean, anything that warm and creamy and soothing is probably evil of the worst kind. So I’ve avoided going back for more.
I banished this new flame of desire into the overcrowded prison of my brain’s ‘time out’ room. It was in good company. Chocolate. Cookies. Ice Cream. Ginger candy. All the sugar demons welcomed their new friend, Chai. I knew they were planning their escape, but I ignored them. You have to be tough with demons. They thrive on negative attention. Ignoring is the best solution. I would move forward into life acting as though that Chai tea was not, in fact, calling my name.
Weeks passed and then, this Christmas season I was shopping the gourmet food section of T.J. Maxx. As I was having a heated discussion with an extra-large and aggressive package of German gingerbread cookies that kept trying to jump into my cart, I noticed a coy, unassuming little box of Masala Spice Chai tea mix by Nature’s Guru. It was laying low during the altercation with the cookies, but when it saw me looking its way, it lifted its tiny little arms to me in a gesture of complete trust and surrender. Smitten, I reached for it to read its label. It was UNSWEETENED! Oh Happy Day!? Could it possibly be that someone had actually made a chai mix with no added sugar?
I read the ingredients: milk powder, black tea extract, cardamom powder, spices. Yes!! Could I possibly get my chai fix without letting the army of sugar demons out of their room? Because, I mean, if I let one demon out, they all want to come out and play and it’s anarchy. It might start with an innocent chai tea, but pretty soon I’m sitting around in dirty sweatpants feeling bloated; scattered crumbs the only evidence of my sin. My little box of tea and I smiled at one another in mutual trust, and I placed it lovingly into the seat of my cart.
Tossing the cookies aside, (I win!) I searched frantically for another box of tea. Why buy one when there might be two? I found another, albeit smashed, on the end cap. Two boxes. 10$. I did not care that they seemed pricey. I was, after all, smitten by the possibility of spicy goodness.
On Christmas Day when we opened our stockings, somehow one of the boxes had ended up in my own stocking, and one in Mike’s. Whaattt? Santa! How did you know? Trusty water kettle always at the ready, I made short work of mixing up a cup of velvety chai and then added a packet of Stevia (my sweetner of choice) to the cup. Inhaling deeply, I sat with the fragrance for a minute. Lovely! It looked actually creamy. I sipped and let it roll around in my mouth for a few seconds. It was delicious. This stuff was a winner. The demons cried with woe. This was not the key that would unlock their cell. Ha HAAAA! Take that! This tea is my new super-power, demons, so beware!
I began to see the possibilities of this tea. Vampire killers might wield a cross at their nemesis, but sugar killers everywhere could now hold their tiny packets of tea in front of them as they made their way boldly with heads erect through the bakeries of life. I began to hoard the little packets of tea in my purse, even taking some with us to Tennessee so we would not go without. I sighed with relief when the TSA agent at the airport didn’t bat an eyelash at the little foil packets of powder in my purse.
To find something this delicious that doesn’t send me down to the corner sugar dealer for an illicit fix is almost too good to be true and as a ‘thank you’ to the Universe, I needed to use this new power for good, not evil. I would need to share this with others. And I would need to create my own supply because at 6$ a box on Amazon, well, you get the idea. I needed a more cost effective way to get my chai. Anyone who thinks ‘necessity’ is the mother of invention has never met ‘addiction’.
A long shallow dive into Google produced recipes for making your own chai tea mix and I got excited until I realized that they all call for at least 1 full cup of white sugar, and some actually have more sugar in them than milk. WTF? Why not just start an intravenous glucose drip and cut to the chase? They also all used nonfat dry milk (blech) and non-dairy creamer, as well as vanilla non-dairy creamer. I decided to make my own and make it sugar free. We can all add our own sweetener of choice to this mix and the cost savings to our bodies, souls, and wallets are significant.
The commercial brand I bought is $ .50- $.60 per serving, depending on whether you order from Amazon or happen to find it at the discount store. My mixture comes out at just $.23/ serving of two tablespoons to 8 ounces of water. If you add more of the mix, then that cost goes up accordingly. Still, that’s a lot of wiggle room. Also, to be fair, I had all of these spices on hand. Even the cardamom and white pepper. If I had to buy all of them, the costs for my initial batch would go up. But you can make a lot of tea mix with a bottle of spice. Also, don’t buy your spices at the big grocery store in the spice section. They are WAY the heck overpriced. Look in the Hispanic foods section and then check the dollar store. Costco has great deals on many spices, as well.
I tweaked the recipes I found a bit. For instance I like full fat milk. Nonfat milk is a non-starter to me. So I bought the can of powdered whole milk in our local grocery store’s Hispanic section. It’s by Nestle, of course, and costs more than the non-fat variety. If you don’t mind non-fat, your costs will go down. I notice Amazon carries some other powdered whole milks as well. Maybe I’ll try one of those next time.
I have never bought non-dairy creamers but because all the recipes I found had both the plain and the vanilla varieties, and the milk was expensive, I caved and bought some of the plain variety. After mixing this up I think I will forgo that next time I make the mix and just use all milk powder. I don’t need to be drinking ‘corn syrup solids’ on a regular basis because, hello, that’s basically dried processed sugar. Even with the creamer, however, there is very precious little sugar in my mixture except for what is naturally found in milk. It’s not enough to set me into a sugar spiral, and my demon is very sensitive. Next time, no creamer. All milk. Instead of using the vanilla flavored non-food creamer, I just add a couple of drops of pure vanilla to my cup if I want that flavoring. I like myself some real vanilla.
So here you go. Tweak the spices a bit if you want. This has a little gingery kick because I like that. I suggest starting with 1/2 the spice and then working up until you like what you smell. You’re welcome.
Melissa’s Sugar-Free Chai Tea Mix
Makes 76 servings of 2 tablespoons per cup of hot water. Add stevia, honey, sugar, or whatever sweetener you like if you want it sweet. Add 2 drops of pure vanilla extract if you want vanilla flavoring.
3 cups powdered whole milk
2 cups non-dairy coffee creamer (or just use 5 cups of powdered milk)
3 1/2 cups instant, unsweetened black tea like Liptons
4 tsp ground ginger
4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 1/2 tsp cardamom
2 1/2 tsp allspice
3 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp fine white pepper
Put ingredients in the food processor and process them until they become a uniform fine powder. You really don’t want to skip this step because the spices are going to be ground into a much finer powder by doing this. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy guilt free.