Not that I’ve traveled there yet, but I don’t know what I love more about India – the glorious cuisine, or the fact that Masala chai originated from there. I know I go on about how much certain foods do it for me, like bananas and coconut anything, but chai is something that really does it for me. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s almost on par with dark chocolate. I just can’t get past the flavour combination of aromatic cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, star anise, fennel and clove.
Almost three years ago, I was introduced to chai in the form of the all-too popular latte, which is essentially just a combination milk, chai-flavoured syrup/powder (sugar) and honey/sugar. It pains me to admit it, but this whirlwind love affair didn’t start in a trendy cafe one Winter morning as I flicked through Frankie, or even out of a mug. Rather, I fell in love with the contents of a paper takeaway cup at my local McCafe. That’s right.
Before long, my obsession with the creamy, sweetly spiced awesomeness had gone from being a once-weekly ‘treat’, to a daily pre-morning-lecture-ritual. I justified my addiction by telling myself that Lot 6 Cafe used chai powder, not syrup like Macca’s did, and thus couldn’t be as sugary, and I only ordered a size small so how much harm could one measly cup a day possibly do anyway? Deep down I knew that I was consuming the calorific equivalent to a Max Brenner hot chocolate each time I downed that little cup of sunshine, and I knew something had to give. The truth is, I loved the marriage of flavours and the place of bliss each cup took me far too much to give it up entirely, and I wasn’t aware –or particularly willing to look for — healthier, less-glorious alternatives. So I kept downing it.
Then I discovered Masala chai tea. The real stuff. I don’t remember where it was, but it certainly wasn’t at Macca’s, and it was so magnificent that I haven’t been swayed by the temptation of a chai latte since. My particular favourites are all T2 varieties, Tea Drop’s Malabar Chai and Twinings’ Chai-Vanilla Origins. These days, my afternoons are incomplete without a big mug of chai tea and a few pieces of my Dark ‘Chocolate’ Bark to dunk in – it’s my simple, infallible way to slip a little bit of calm into my day.
For me, trying new additions to the chai range at T2 elicits a similar feeling to shoe shopping. No exaggeration. Last Friday during my lunch break at work I had the pleasure of both and it was the best start to the weekend I could ask for. A new pair of Windsor Smiths and a box of T2 Creamy Choc Chai should make any girl happy.
When 5:30 hit and the weekend’s social calendar should have been on my mind, I was thinking about Saturday’s breakfast. I knew I wanted a big fat mug of my new Creamy Choc Chai, but I wanted to try something a bit different. So, I decided to marry three of the World’s Greatest Things, according to me: oats, chai and grilled banana. Saturday morning was unreal.
Creamy Chai-Infused Porridge & Cinnamon-Grilled Banana
- 40g oats (1/3 cup + 2 tbs)
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup milk of choice
- 2 tsp loose leaf chai tea in a brewing tool (or 2 tea bags)
- Ground cinnamon*
- Ground cardamom*
- Ground nutmeg*
- 1 ripe firm banana, quartered (cut once lengthways, then half again)
- 1 tsp pure organic maple syrup
- 1 tbs flaked almonds
- 1 tsp walnuts, chopped
- Preheat the grill & toast the flaked almonds until golden. Watch them carefully – my grill takes 30 seconds to toast almonds, not 5 minutes, which I learnt last week when I almost set my entire kitchen on fire. Remove almonds from grill and allow to cool.
- In a small saucepan bring the milk and water to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, add the tea and allow to infuse for 8 minutes. Return the saucepan to the heat and bring to a simmer again. Remove the tea bags and transfer the mixture to a large mug/jug.
- In the meantime, sprinkle the banana pieces with a little cinnamon and grill until they begin to bubble and caramelise. Depending on your grill, this could take anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes.
- Add the oats, chia seeds, 1 tsp cinnamon*, 3/4 tsp cardamom* a pinch of nutmeg* and 3/4 of the milky tea mixture to the saucepan. Allow to sit over medium heat. Once it begins to boil, stir continuously until the oats and seeds have absorbed the liquid, around 5 minutes. Add the remaining milk mixture and extra water/milk if you need it. Remove from heat when a desired consistency is reached. Taste and sweeten with stevia or other sweetener of choice accordingly.
- Spoon porridge into a serving bowl and top with the grilled banana, walnuts, toasted almonds and maple syrup. Delec-tea-ble!
* I’m HUGE on spices, and chai spices are no exception. The quantities I’ve suggested give an intense and deeply aromatic chai flavour. If you’re not so big on these spices and like your chai a little more subtle, just add the ground spices at the end, to taste.