Hello hello, and welcome to Episode 19 of Life On the Brink!
How are you doing? I hope you're doing well and keeping warm. We've now entered that final, post-Valentine's Day stretch of winter, and while I'm trying my best to think cozy thoughts, sometimes you need a little pick-me-up. And sometimes there's just nothing better than a nice, warm, foamy latte. You know, all sweet and milky. It kind of makes you feel fancy, especially if it's in a beautiful mug. But since I'm not always in the mood for coffee, and espresso can be difficult to brew without certain equipment, I have a growing fondness for tea lattes.
I know you must have a mug collection just waiting to be filled with delicious drinks, and tea lattes are really so simple! By the end of this episode, you're gonna have all the tools and all the inspiration you need to make yourself a creamy, comforting mug of tea. Plus there's a perfect playlist for it at the end of this post.
So today we’re going to be breaking down the three most popular tea lattes: chai, matcha, and the London Fog. Then, once you’re established in the method, the possibilities and flavor combinations are endless!
Method #1: brew strong tea and add milk (like espresso)
-For a stronger brew you need a lot of circulation of tea leaves with the water. It's best to use loose leaf in a teapot, then strain the leaves out.
-You can use tea bags! the pieces are smaller and are meant to brew stronger and faster .
-Brew at a high temperature, at least boiling.
-Steep for several minutes, but be careful, as some teas can become bitter if brewed too long.
Method #2: brew tea into the milk
-The same rules apply for the strength of the brew. Especially pay attention to the temperature. I like to simmer the milk on the stove for this reason.
-I use this method whenever I make tea lattes!
Let’s use my London Fog recipe as a guide:
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
-1 c almond milk (or milk of choice)
-1 earl grey tea sachet
-½ tsp pure vanilla
-1 tsp coconut oil
-Sweetener: 1 tbsp honey or sweetener of choice OR 1 drop liquid sucralose
HERE WE GO:
Heat the almond milk in a saucepan over low heat, just to get a little simmer going. You can basically throw the tea bag in there while it’s heating if you ask me, or wait until the milk is hot and steep the tea for 4-5 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, coconut oil, and whatever sweet thang you choose. Discard tea bag. Transfer to blender and whip that bad boy for at least a full minute. Pour immediately into mug and make sure to get all that good frothy foam (a spoon is handy).
Serve with lemon wedge
So you see, all you really need is milk, tea, and sweetener. Of course, you can always add:
-pure vanilla extract
-spices (I like to add ground spices for chai lattes)
-a bit of citrus at the end
That last one might seem a bit odd, but that is essential for the FOAM, which is perhaps the best part of a comforting tea latte. Without certain equipment (we’ll get to that in a bit), getting a nice frothy top can present a challenge, but I’ve found that a little bit of coconut oil will really go a long way in that department. Feel free to experiment!
Let’s move on to chai. The good news is that, at the simplest level, you can repeat the London Fog recipe, just using a chai tea blend in lieu of the Earl Grey. Like I mentioned, I also like to throw in some ground cinnamon and ginger when I add the vanilla and coconut oil. It definitely does the trick when you’re craving that sweet spicy goodness.
But we’re not stopping there, oh no! You may recall from Episode 6 that “chai” has been a staple in India for centuries, and can include all kinds of spices, commonly brewed whole rather than ground. Traditionally, chai is also served in tall glasses, rather than our beloved mugs.
It’s taken me a while to invest in whole spices (easily found at any international market) and give it a go, but I’ve done it and WOW is it a game changer. A friend of mine (Hi Karese!) sent me this recipe a couple weeks ago that she got from a friend who was born and raised in India. This friend was kind enough to teach Karese and her mom about her culture through food and tea. I’ve copied it directly from her text, so all credit for the excellent instructions goes to Karese and her notetaking!
⁃2 parts water
⁃1 part milk of choice (ex. 1 cup water to 1/2 cup milk)
⁃1” chunk peeled pounded fresh ginger (pound w/mortar & pestle)
⁃3 whole cloves
⁃6 lightly pounded Indian cardamom pods (if you can’t find Indian cardamom, regular is fine. You can use every part of the cardamom pod too)
⁃around 2 tsp Loose leaf black tea (or if you’re doing caffeine free, rooibos tea is lovely...you can add more or less tea depending on how much you make)
⁃Sugar or sweetener of choice
Add pounded ginger, pounded cardamom, cloves, water and milk to a pot. Bring to a boil. (I prefer almond milk, but if you’re using regular milk, you might have to heat it separately so it won’t curdle—i don’t know the whole science behind why milk might curdle)
Once it begins to boil, add tea leaves and sugar.
Simmer for a couple minutes until it gets to the strength/color you want it to be at.
Strain the tea, and serve. (Careful, it’s hot!)
Now, of course, if you’re all about that foam, like I am, I say you can always blend it up at the end, maybe with a little coconut oil. Let me just say, fresh ginger is a game changer. This chai is spicy in a special way that isn’t overpowering but is so intense and comforting. Definitely give this one a shot!
That leaves us with perhaps the easiest, but most intimidating, of the bunch: matcha!
This famous powder is simply a preparation of green tea. Before the leaves are picked, they’re typically put in the shade to boost their chlorophyll levels, making them extra green. Then the leaves are picked and prepped just like green tea, but then dried and ground up into a fine powder.
Matcha has become a fairly new trend here in the United States, especially in the form of the matcha latte. And while it’s bright green hue might make it a little intimidating, it turns out that, with the proper equipment, this is the easiest latte of all!
By equipment, I’m referring to a particular bowl and whisk that is traditionally used to blend the ground tea with water (although there are methods you can use if you don’t have those tools). It’s perhaps a bit of an investment, depending on the maker, but if you love a matcha latte on the regular, really you’ll be saving money in the long run by not buying them from cafes as much.
All you need to make this latte is matcha powder (ground tea leaves), hot water, milk, and a sweetener of your choice. The quantities of these ingredients is really a matter of taste, but as a jumping-off point, I’m including this recipe from Food and Wine:
1 1/2 teaspoons matcha powder
1 tablespoon hot water
2 teaspoons honey, or to taste
3/4 cup hot milk
Sift the matcha powder into a cup. Add the water and stir until no lumps remain. Stir in the honey. Add the milk and serve.
*a note from me: again, as with the chai, you can always put these ingredients with a little vanilla and a little coconut oil and add to a blender. It’ll make a nice frothy top.*
So now that you are familiar with these different ways to turn tea leaves into tea lattes, you can try it with any tea you like. I particularly love making a latte out of this Paris blend tea from Harney and Sons, it is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted, so interesting and yummy. You can even make a latte out of your plain English Breakfast black tea. Basically, if it’s a tea you drink with milk, I’d say to try it as a latte!
I do want to make mention of one last piece of equipment that has absolutely changed my latte game, and that is the milk frother.
I know you can find frothers that look like little whisks, but this one from Miroco does pretty much everything: heating, foaming, both at the same time, etc. As someone who uses almond milk pretty much exclusively, I was SHOCKED to see foam so thick and creamy from only nut milk, no oil necessary!
So if you choose to invest in one of these, your latte making will get even easier. You can just heat the milk, steep a sachet directly into it, add sweetener, then foam up a portion of it. It’s such a game changer, I highly highly recommend.
Whether you’re stuck home in quarantine or want to avoid public cafes, or maybe you just want to make your days at home a little more special, tea lattes are such a simple comfort that adds a bit of coffee-shop decadence to your breakfast or mid-afternoon. As we enter this final stretch of the winter season, may these delicious drinks bring some warmth into your mug and your home. Sometimes the only thing better than a cup of tea is a cup of milky, foamy, tea.
This Week’s Little Joy: The best croissant of my life. Josh and I went to Charlottesville to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and ended up going to the same bakery, Petite Mariebette, every single day. It was at this bakery that I enjoyed their chocolate almond croissant, it’s like a pain au chocolat, but with frangipane inside and almonds on top like a classic almond croissant. Every layer of pastry was baked to perfection, each bite was so crisp, so sweet. I ordered it twice in one weekend and have no regrets.
What I’m Listening To: This is my playlist called London Fog (newly updated!), that is perfect for making a warm drink on a rainy day. Take a moment to pause and make yourself something sweet.
Thank you so much for tuning in to episode! If you like what you're hearing, please don't forget to leave a rating or review Apple podcasts, or subscribe on whatever app you use! And until next time, friends, you stay warm and have a lovely week.