Cup O’Cheer!

We can all find some comfort this time of the year with a little warmth. Winter’s a wonderland for tasty brews, whether you wassail, chug glögg, hog the nog, or simply sample the cocoa left for Santa (and his elves). But if you could use a perkier brew – one that won’t have you nodding off 15 minutes later – allow us to suggest a (new?) yuletide treasure that’s both healing and delicious: masala chai.

Traditionally made with black tea, masala chai packs some pep, as well as the antioxidants and heart-healthy boons of that blessed black leaf. But even the caffeine-free can enjoy health benefits in a (black tea-less) cuppa chai, simply by soaking up the spices:

Ginger for digestion, circulation, immune-support and anti-inflammatories.

Clove for soothing throats and bellies.

Cinnamon to fight inflammation, indigestion, and infection.

Cardamom to detox and combat belly-bloating.

Black pepper to speed up metabolism, battle microbes, and get digestive juices going.

If that sounds like your cup o’ tea, follow us in merry measure (serves 4):

2 cups water
1/2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black peppercorns
4 whole cloves
4 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
2 cups whole milk or nutmilk
2 tbsp. something sweet (honey, agave, sugar), to taste
2 tbsp. loose black tea (or rooibus for decaf)

In a small saucepan, bring water, ginger, pepper, cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon to a boil. Add the (nut) milk and bring to a boil once again.

Remove pan from heat and add the loose black (or rooibus) tea. Cover and let steep for at least 3 minutes (or longer, if you prefer a stronger brew). Strain the mixture into a warmed teapot or directly into cups. Sweeten to suit your tastes (be they naughty or nice!)