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Herbal Vainilla Chai (For Kids)

Yields 8 C

Lately, Claire and I have been busy teaching.

Yes, you read that correctly. My 2 year old daughter and I are now spending some time teaching cooking classes to other 2 year old kiddos and their mamas. We’re called the Little Foodies of Al Ain. Most people think I’m crazy for bringing a total of 8 kids into the kitchen. Most people also think we’re crazy for moving out to the Middle East less than a year ago. Those people don’t live here.

For the people that live here, there’s an entire range of normal (it makes for a very welcoming community), and schlepping a bunch of kids into the kitchen is right up there.

You have to know that these mini-chefs are incredible students. They’re attentive, and they’re curious. If they get bored sitting at the table, they wander (safely) around the kitchen. They see each other eat and try and mix and measure, and they all want a part of the action. What’s happening is that these toddlers are becoming confident in the kitchen. They’re learning how to be in the kitchen, and they’re learning about food. It may seem simple and trite, but it’s a skill and a connection that is becoming more and more lost as the food industry gets bigger, stronger, bolder and more creative with our “food”.

Of course they’re not quite up to the task of listening to me go on and on about organic and whole food, shopping at the farm or fermenting your own food. That’s what the mamas are there for. But, they are up to the task of touching, smelling and tasting.

This class, which also included Lemon Ginger Muffins (yes, recipe coming soon), was of particular interest because of all the different spices used. The kids took care in investigating their spices, some of them even naming them, and eagerly added them to the pot of water. They didn’t need to know the myriad health benefits to be had in each of the delicately chosen spices. They didn’t need to know that drinking the chai would aid in their digestion, or improve metabolism or relieve stress (yes, kids have stress, too). All they would be concerned with is the taste of the final product. A final product they knew was coming. This was their 4th class after all.

Why “herbal” chai? Because it’s delicious. Also, because I love to enjoy a cup of tea with Claire, so making a “chai” appropriate for her (and her friends) was bound to happen. I especially loved the opportunity to explore these different spices with her and to get her still emerging palate used to the intricate dance that would take place as she sipped her chai in her favorite tea cup. Not to mention, listening to her say, “Mommy, more chai please”, really is the cutest thing in the world.

Before we knew it, the herbal chai was done, and being served. It was pretty amazing to see those little chefs in class intrigued by their spice and eager to experience that dance. Happily, I saw that each sweet sip was thoroughly enjoyed by each and every little chef in the room. And, their moms.

Of course, they all got A’s in my book.

You’ll need:

8 C water

2 T cardamom pods

3 cinnamon sticks

10 black peppercorns

3 star anise

8 whole cloves

3 T coriander seeds

2 T freshly squeezed ginger juice (or 2 T minced fresh ginger in a sachet)

3 T maple syrup

1 3-inch piece of vanilla bean or 2 t vanilla extract

1 C milk (or non-dairy milk)

To make:

1. Bring water and all spices to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

2. Add vanilla bean or extract then, covered, let spices steep for 15 minutes. Then, return to a boil and promptly remove from heat.

3. Strain and discard spices. Let tea cool to room temperature and then refrigerate. Unless you’re having a cup immediately, then prepare as per instructions below, or to taste!

To serve:

1. While tea is settling, bring 3/4 C of milk (dairy or non-dairy) to a simmer and add to tea.

2. Add 3 T maple syrup.

3. Serve in individual cups and ENJOY!

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