This is the time of year when I want nothing more than to traipse through the woods. The leaves have hit the deck and between the satisfying rustling sound they make, the scent of pine needles and apples, and the brisk air, a walk yields something that just might be the best feeling in the world. We're getting ready to hunker down along with the bears, groundhogs, hobbits, squirrels and other woodland creatures.
My thoughts turn to warm fires, family, good books, old movies, quiet music and great steaming platters of roasts, mashed potatoes, pie, cookies -- and hot tea.
I know coffee is a perennial darling, but let's talk tea for just a moment. Have you read the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder? I remember them taking the edge off of the long, hard winters with strong, hot tea more than once. There is something about tea that makes you slow down and relax.
Why? I think it must have something to do with the intensive manpower that goes into every cup of tea. Hand-picked leaves dried lovingly, packaged carefully and shipped to those who stand by, kettles in hand, ready to bring the water to a boil and coax every bit of flavor out of those tiny but potent shriveled leaves.
The glow of citrus, subtle sweetness and round but gentle heat of spices makes this Spiced Orange Chai Concentrate do exactly what all chai -- all tea, for that matter -- should do; it fills your belly and warms you from the inside out. Handily, the recipe makes a large amount and is good for up to a month in the refrigerator or up to three months in the freezer.
While I prefer it served hot with banks of steam rising from it on chilly autumn and winter days, it is superb served over ice, ice cream, or yogurt just to keep things interesting. I've even been known to stir a tablespoon or two into an apple pie or galette. If a walk in the woods is the best feeling in the world, a Chai Apple Pie comes in pretty closely behind it.