Now that it’s officially autumn, you guys won’t be mad if I bury you in cozy, comfy recipes for the next few months, right? I hope not, because man, I have some good ones up floating around in this food-obsessed brain of mine.
Life seems to finally be calming down after one of the more crazy summers of my life, and it feels so good to get back into the kitchen and cook just for the sake of cooking and eating. I’m an equally-opportunity season lover, but something about being in the kitchen with fall-inspired ingredients on a crisp day while the leaves tumble outside the window makes my heart happy. I have dreams of stews and soups and roasts and casseroles and all that delicious, hearty food that makes packing on an extra 10 pounds of winter weight totally worth it (after all, you’ll just work it off with yard work in the spring, anyway, amirite?).
One of the tell-tale signs that I’ve shifted into the autumn mindset is when I stop icing my beverages and instead drift toward hot coffee and hot tea. We’re pretty vigilant about keeping our heat off as long as possible, and as the thermostat dips lower and lower, my hands seem to get colder and colder. That poor husband of mine. Pretty much from September through April, the second I touch him, he jumps out of his skin thanks to my ice cold hands. Wrapping my hands around a warm mug is to benefit both of us. And, hey, it doesn’t hurt that the mug contents are totally delicious.
This isn’t the first chai latte recipe on the blog, but this is definitely my favorite. The original was back early in this blog’s life (and hey, I talked about my cold hands there, too), and I wasn’t much of an experimenter. My sister passed the recipe along to me, and I liked it, so I posted it without tweaking. But two years later, I’ve been working and tweaking the recipe for a while now, and I’ve landed on a concoction I love even more than the original. Out is the highly processed sugar, and in is natural, flowery honey. Also added: a decent amount of vanilla extract and freshly cracked black pepper, which sounds like a weird combo, but trust, me, it’s beautiful together. Sweet, a little bit spicy, and so crazy aromatic that your husband will walk in the kitchen and say, “Holy crap. That smells amazing.” #truestory
I also love this recipe because the sweetness level is 100% customizable. In the recipe, I include a base amount of honey (1/4 cup) and that gives you a lightly sweet version—much less sweeter than the chai lattes you get at the Bux, but still treat-worthy. If you like a little more sweetness in your latte, just add more honey. In fact, if you’re serving this to a crowd, I’d say the best plan of attack is to make the recipe as written, and then have more honey on the table for folks to customize their drink as they like.
Of course, if you happen to get another heat wave in the next few weeks, this also works beautifully as an iced chai. But let’s just pretend like that’s not going to happen, okay? I’m ready for fall to be here to stay.
Vanilla Honey Chai Tea Latte
Cook Time: 10 minutes | Makes: 4 small mugs or 2 large
- 2 cups water
- 2 black tea bags, tags removed
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom OR 6 whole cardamom pods, crushed
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon OR 1 whole cinnamon stick
- 3 whole cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- Pinch freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch salt
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a saucepan over medium-high heat, mix together the water, tea bags, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add in the pepper, salt, honey and milk. Bring back to a boil, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Strain through cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve into mugs. Top with whipped cream or more ground cinnamon.