26 April 2009

Chai Iced Tea, Worse the 2nd Time

It's not even May yet and it was 85 degrees today! We dug two enormous holes outside in the yard and a good time was had by all. Then we were thirsty, so I decided to make something that Thomas had made for us before quite successfully, Chai Iced Tea.

The first clue I had that this drink might be problematic was the goopiness. Sweetened condensed milk has the same viscosity as honey and tamarind concentrate, and I dripped it all over the glasses and the paper towel. And the counter. And my pants. And the carpet. Sigh.

My second clue came in the form of three bonded-for-life ice cubes in the shape of an L. They wouldn't fit in the glasses and they wouldn't break, so we ended up with fewer ice cubes than we needed. So the iced tea was too warm, which is probably the worst thing that can happen to iced tea!

The right kind of chai would have made a big difference, I think, but this time we had a vanilla-spiced Indian chai. In my opinion fruitier chai (with orange zest, for example) goes much better with sweetened condensed milk than do vanilla notes. Two Leaves and a Bud chai has been excellent in the past for chai iced tea. Thomas used four of their bags per glass pitcher and steeped for quite a while.

Probably I should have steeped more tea bags as well. The steeped tea needs to be very strong and bitter to balance well with the sweetness of the sweetened condensed milk.

I think ultimately it would have been better if I had tasted as I went. And if Thomas the lab science whiz were here with me. You never know when titration skills will come in handy!

Still, I tolerated it fairly well. Chris drank half of his glass with a positive attitude, and even George downed it without comment. The last time we made this (with Thomas in charge), it was much better, but then we experimented a lot and also chilled the tea and the condensed milk overnight in the refrigerator before mixing. The ideal is a consistency and flavor similar to Thai Iced Tea (pictured above), but if you don't have Thai tea—and most people don't—then a good spicy fruity chai is a delightful substitute.

Article on how to make authentic Thai Iced Tea.

Chai Iced Tea (adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe in How to Cook Everything).

Your favorite chai bags with orange flavor
sweetened condensed milk, chilled overnight if possible
ice cubes, lots

Steep several bags of chai in boiling water in a glass pitcher until the tea is very strong and bitter. Remember it will be diluted by melting ice and sweetened condensed milk. Take out tea bags and chill until cold. If you are in a hurry make sure you have a large amount of ice cubes. Then somehow you have to thoroughly mix 1/4th to 3/4th inch sweetened condensed milk in your glass with the chai and a lot of ice cubes. Good luck with that. I mixed the milk and tea first and then put the ice cubes in, but then the bottom stayed warm a long time. I think it's best to pour the liquid over the ice cubes, so maybe you need to mix the liquids in a separate container first, and keep tasting until it's almost perfect but needs a little dilution by ice cubes.
Best with a large straw and some large bobo tapioca pearls.

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