Chai to warm the soul: Vegan chai recipe

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There’s a moment, right before you open your eyes in the morning between sleep and awake. You forget your pains, your struggles and your worries. Nothing but the bliss of sleep troubles your mind. And then when you open them you remember all at once. Sometimes it’s a reminder of what you don’t have. Sometimes it’s a reminder of what you’ve lost.

Every morning when I was in high school I had to remember all over again the world I lived in. And every morning I wished I could go back to bed. There wasn’t anything worth getting up for when I was stuck in what seemed like never ending depression. I struggled, every. Single. Morning. School was somewhere I went to, to avoid being at home. It was where I went to try to forget the secrets of my parents' addictions and the lies we told.

Sometimes it was the weekends that hurt me the most, nothing to do, nowhere to go. But there was a brief moment on those mornings when I woke up before the sun and my parents. There was a moment that moved me out of bed and down stairs in my bathrobe. I would make myself a cup of tea. The steam rising in the cool winter morning. I would find myself taking a deep breath with my eyes closed.

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Still tired I would drag my feet out onto our cold porch. It was almost always covered in a light dusting of snow and I would force my eyes open to watch the sunrise.

It was as if time stopped completely and I was alone in the world. Me, the sun and my tea. I would sip my tea and watch the colors of the sky change from dark purples and oranges to yellows pinks and blues. I would watch the snow begin to sparkle with the rising sun and I would breathe for the first time all week.

This moment was the only time where I decided to extend that peace between sleep and awake. Before the world came crashing down on me. I didn't think anything of this morning cup of tea at the time. It was something I did if woke up early enough. But as I left my childhood home I began to heal from my family's dysfunction. I began to realize that these small moments were probably one of the few reasons I am still sane.

That cup of tea saved my life, day after day, week after week.

That cup of tea is what kept me dreaming for the days that I didn’t have to remember the pains of my world when I opened my eyes. It reminded me that life can be beautiful, even if I never acknowledged it at the time. For the next several years my depression sunk into every crevice of my being. During my darkest moments I found myself thinking-just wait for one more sunrise. Because tomorrow’s sunrise may be better.

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There is something magical about tea. It’s held me up when I needed a hand and laid me down when I needed to sleep. Its stopped time and helped me remember that joy can come from a warm mug and a beautiful morning.

Now as the weather gets colder I am reminded of these blissful moments of sunrise and want to share them with you. Winter is chai weather. The spices in this chai warm you up from the inside out. Enjoy outside, watching the sunrise, or by a cozy fire. I hope this chai reminds you just how beautiful life can be even during our darkest days.

Winter Chai to warm the soul

20 pods of cardamom, crushed or cut in half

3 sticks of cinnamon

6 whole cloves

6-10 whole black peppercorns

2-3 inch piece of ginger sliced

3 quarts of water (3 L)

4 Tbsp loose black tea OR 6 black tea bags

To serve

Coconut milk or non-dairy milk of choice

Maple syrup or other sweetener of choice

1. Place all the spices* into a pot or crockpot that can hold 3 quarts of liquid.

2. Cover with water and cook on low for at least 2 hours. If you’re making this in a crockpot you can leave it on low all day while you’re at work. Alternatively, you can cook it on medium high for about 30 to 45 minutes. This is to extract all the flavor and the health benefits of the spices.

3. Add the tea and steep for 6 to 10 minutes. I know this seems like a long time but you need this time to extract all the delicious black tea as there isn’t a lot of it.

4. Strain through a sieve into mason jars or other container and keep in the fridge until ready to serve. This is your chai concentrate.

5. When you are ready to serve heat up the chai concentrate. I recommend heating it on the stove or in a crock pot; until steaming and then add your milk**. Heat again until steaming before pouring in your favorite mug. Sweeten to taste and enjoy!

*It’s very important to use whole spices in this recipe. They do have a longer shelf life than ground spices so please do your best to seek these whole spices out.

**I like to use a generous amount of non-dairy milk just because the concentrate is nice and spicy. The ratio of milk to concentrate I generally use is about 1:1/2 or 1:1/3. So if you use 1 cup of chai concentrate I would add 1/3 to ½ cup of non-dairy milk but use however much you like!