Here in Melbourne the temperature has dropped and winter has settled over the city. We’re lucky enough not to get snow (or is that unlucky??) but the days are grey and dreary. On these wintry days I often crave something hot to drink, and there are only so many teas, coffees and hot chocolates I can drink before I go searching for something a little more interesting.
What if you could go for an ultra awesome warm drink that makes you believe you might be living in warmer climates? I’d be trying that kinda drink in a heartbeat, and you know what, I can do exactly that any day I want. And so can you!
Thank god for spiced winter drinks! The kind that warm the soul as well as the senses. You know the ones I mean, like mulled wine and warm spiced chai. Yum! I’m craving it already as I sit here and type this.
Chai is definitely the most common of the spiced drinks, and it’s the drink that’s most often available in cafes. But you know what I hate? The chai lattes you get from the cafes are usually 90% warm milk with so little spice that you may as well just have a glass of warm milk by itself. And that spice flavour isn’t even real spices because it’s that powdered mix that’s got more fillers in it than real spices. It really annoys me that I have to pay $4 or more to get warm milk!
I have only ever had one cafe bought chai that was any good and it was from the Journal cafe outside the city library on Flinders Lane. It was a real chai complete with spices I could taste and see. Now that is the kind of spiced drink I’m talking about: I can see, taste and feel the spices!
So recently I took to making my own chai because I was so disappointed by the versions I tried at the cafes around the city and suburbs. And it’s actually pretty easy to make your own chai. There are hundreds of versions out there, but this is how I made my own:
- Heat 2 cups of water with sugar (to taste), a couple of cinnamon sticks, 5-6 cardamon pods, a couple star anise and some tea in a saucepan on the stove. I used the T2 Melbourne breakfast loose leaf tea because it is black tea and vanilla. If you just use regular black tea (loose leaf or teabags) add a couple of drops of vanilla essence as well, or a vanilla bean if you can afford it.
- Brew the mix till it boils and remove the tea but keep the spices. On a low heat add 2 cups of milk and stir a few times. Remove from the heat and leave the mix to infuse for 30-60 minutes.
- When you’re ready to drink the chai you can either reheat the mix over the stove again or pour the mix into cups through a strainer (so the spices don’t fall into your drink) and reheat the individual cups in the microwave. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar as necessary.
I’ve since discovered that you can also make chai in a milk frother – you know, those things that come with home coffee machines and very few people actually use. I have one buried away in the back of the cupboard and it never sees the light of day, but seeing as winter is here to stay for the next few months, I reckon I might get mine out and give chai a go in there. Why not, right?
Other than chai, there are plenty of other spiced winter drink recipes out there. The classics are mulled wine* and warm apple cider, but did you know there are also plenty of recipes for spiced coffee, spiced tea and various varieties of spiced hot chocolate? That’s right, you can have chilli hot choc, chilli cinnamon, hazelnut, cinnamon and nutmeg or even caramel hot chocolate!
Check out these recipes to get you started on your new spiced winter drink passion (or is it just me who has a new found passion?).
- Mulled wine
- Spiced cider
- Jasmine ginger tea
- Lemon vanilla and mint tea
- Spiced Vienna coffee
- Hot choc caramel
- Hot toddy
Really, the sky’s the limit with what you want to try as far as spiced winter drinks is concerned. Any type of tea can be spiced up with a corresponding spice, and adding honey or lemon makes it a great option if you have a sore throat or cold (especially if you add ginger too). Coffee was a surprise for me, but really, why can’t you spice up a plain old coffee with a bit of chilli, cinnamon and whipped cream?
Are you salivating as much as I am right now? And I don’t even like coffee but that Vienna coffee sounds incredible.
There’s no excuses now. Just give one of the above recipes a try this winter and get into the spirit of warm spiced drinks that feed the soul and the senses.
Have you made an amazing winter drink discovery? What was it, and where can I find the recipe? Please let me know in the comments below.
*The best mulled wine and spiced apple cider I ever had was from the orange juice man at the Bus Depot markets in Kingston, Canberra. If you’re in the area, get to the markets and try it because it’s to die for. And then you’ll have something to replicate at home too!