November 15, 2012

Warming the Winter Blues With Chai and Chocolate

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These days, when I check the weather before going to class, my heart sinks a little. The thought of the sharp winds piercing through my fleece jacket, instantly ruining my perfectly coiffed hair that I spent a painstaking fifteen minutes putting into place (I am not a narcissist, I promise) renders my daily walk even more undesirable.

But, rather than seeking refuge under my comforter all day, I muster up the courage to fend off the wintry forces of evil by toting around a steaming hot beverage in my nifty CTB travel mug. I know, I know, this is definitely not a novel idea.

But I am not talking about just having tea or coffee straight from the pot. How about a delicious dirty chai or peppermint mocha that takes virtually the same amount of time to make? Below is a step-by-step guide to achieving some of the greatest winter flavors Collegetown has to offer without having to schlep yourself over to your favorite café to get them.

CTB’s Chai Charger (aka Dirty Chai): Maybe it is the wonderful blend of cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves, but there is something about a chai latte that instantly uplifts your mood. Add a little espresso to that, and you are ready to take on any paper, project, or prelim that is coming your way. For a light-on-sugar (sugar is optional, of course!), homemade version of this drink, all you need is 8 ounces of milk, a bag of chai tea, and espresso powder, and a dash of cinnamon if you have it.

I personally prefer Tazo Organic Chai for its well-rounded flavor, and Medaglia d’Oro espresso powder for its not-so-bitter punch.Assembly is simple: just boil or microwave the milk for about 3-4 minutes, swirl in a teaspoon of espresso, mix in a little cinnamon, and steep the chai tea in the mix for preferably 5 minutes.

Stella’s Hot Mexican Mocha: I was floored the first time I tried Stella’s Hot Mexican Mocha. Every sip delivers a smooth, chocolaty river followed by a surge of soul-warming spice. Here is simple recipe that results in a bold pick-me-up that is reminiscent of Stella’s take on the drink. Grab 8 ounces of milk, a tablespoon of sweetened cocoa powder or a pack of hot chocolate mix such as Swiss Miss, 1 teaspoon of espresso powder, 2 pinches of cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

If you’re going to cocoa powder route, give Scharffen Berger a try: Though it is a bit pricey, a little goes a very long way for this high quality cocoa. Like the recipe before, boil the milk for 3-4 minutes and stir in the other ingredients any way you like. Of course, some of us are more sensitive to spice than others, so be sure to experiment with the recipe and find the right amount of cayenne for your Hot Mexican Mocha that won’t make you feel like you’re at a sweat lodge.

Starbucks Peppermint Mocha: Ah, a true winter classic! The combination of refreshing mint and sweet, high quality chocolate (not to mention the festive red cups) make this a go-to winter beverage. The homemade version is just as decadent and only requires 8 ounces of milk, a tablespoon of sweetened cocoa powder or a packet of hot chocolate mix, and peppermint extract. Boil the milk for 3-4 minutes, add cocoa or hot chocolate, and add just a few drops of peppermint extract.

Next time the grey skies get you down, ditch your boring drink routine and try these out!

Original Author: Karina Parikh