Homemade Chai

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A Warming Cup of Chai (or an excuse for a quiet moment)

In a small saucepan, combine 2 cups of water, 1 cup of milk (at least reduced fat, please), 5 whole cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 3 crushed cardamom pods, 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, 5 white peppercorns, 5 black peppercorns and about 1-inch's worth of ginger root, thinly sliced. I don't bother peeling it. Yes, I have a thing for odd numbers, especially prime numbers.

Don't be appalled by the sheer number of spices used -- contrary to what Morton & Basset may have you believe, good spices can be purchased relatively inexpensively. Do as the Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern ex-pats do and peruse the spice aisles of their community/ethnic grocers. No glass bottles of exotic scents, just unassuming plastic pouches filled with whole cloves, coriander seeds and the like. Thanks to them, I always have whole spices on hand to make something like a cup of tea. [Author's note: I really do dislike the term "Ethnic" markets because in my experience it usually refers to those of us with darker skin tones, Mongolian eye folds, etc. But really, let's all admit we're ethnic and help me find another term to use for these markets.]

Bring to a simmer over high heat and reduce heat. Let cook and steep, uncovered, all its wonderful flavors until reduced by one-third (usually about 15 to 20 minutes of gentle bubbling). Then add three bags worth of black loose leaf tea. Keep simmering for about 5 minutes or until you achieve that desired hue of khaki to the liquid.

Strain out the mixture into a teapot or pitcher or another saucepan. Get rid of the aromatics. And then sweeten the smooth tea with turbinado sugar (the less refined the better -- you need that treacly goodness to add even more depth) to your taste. Finally, add a pinch of salt. Really. It makes everything even more luscious.

Makes enough for 3 servings or one for prolonged sipping over a list and pen and paper. Sip or gulp depending on mood. You don't have to share the pot if you don't want to. But it isn't bad to rack up some good karma.

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