Vegan Chai Spiced Thandai: Sweet and Creamy Cold Indian Drink with Tea Spices

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Mood: As we waltz into the month of March, it’s time for Holi, the beautiful festival of colours:) Holi is an Indian Spring festival that is celebrated across India that celebrates the victory of good over evil:) On this joyous day, friends and family members get together and celebrate the occasion with a friendly game of let-me-smear-you-with-colours:) A playful Holi colour fight is an iconic Indian tradition, that is loved by people across the world:) If you’re still wondering what I’m talking about, check out this music video of the catchy Bollywood song ‘Balam Pichkari’, which aptly depicts how much we Indians love our colourful Holi celebrations:) After all that hectic play of colours, our loved ones definitely work up a royal appetite & that’s where all the delicious food & drinks come into the picture:) Holi feasts involve delicious sweets, hot & crunchy savoury delights & a traditional spiced milk based drink called Thandai:) Thandai literally means ‘cold’ in Hindi, and this cool & fragrant drink is one of my favourites:) Since I’m missing all the Holi fun back home in Mumbai this year, I just had to make myself a comforting glass of Thandai & I dashed into the kitchen in an attempt to veganize this iconic drink! And I have to say, I’m absolutely thrilled with my kitchen experiments:) It turned out SO well that it actually took me surprise;) Plus, it’s also quite healthy & that’s a big win for me too:) Cold. Creamy. Sweet. Healthy. Fragrant. Lip Smackingly Delicious:) I hope you enjoy this wonderful Vegan Chai Spiced Thandai & I wish everyone a very Happy Holi:)


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Food for Thought: Holi is one of my favourite Indian festivals & I have some very fond Holi memories from my childhood:) However, unlike when I was growing up, Holi colours these days are full of toxic chemicals that are extremely harmful, not only for us, but also for our furry friends, and for the environment at large. I’m not a fan of the fact that peaceful Holi celebrations are often turned into unpleasant extravaganzas, involving the wasteful use of water, violent water colour fights that are not welcomed by everyone and the frivolous splashing of colours onto stray animals on the road. At it’s core, Holi is a celebration of good over evil & in the spirit of Holi, I hope we can all enjoy a safe & peaceful celebration, using natural & eco friendly colours, while taking care of our stray animal friends:) Happy Holi Everyone:)


Time: 10 minutes (+ 2 hours Soaking/Cooling Time)
Serving Size: 2 cups
Category: Drink
Author: Animagus Eats


Ingredients:
Drink Base
• 1/2 cup Cashews

• 1 3/4 cup Almond/Coconut Milk (I used a mixture of both)*
• 3 Tea Bags of Black/Masala Tea (I used English Breakfast Tea)*

• 2 tbsp Maple/Agave Syrup

Spices*
• 3/4 – 1 tsp Powdered Fennel Seeds (ie. Saunf)
• 3/4 – 1 tsp Bengali Garam Masala Powder (ie. Powdered Cardamom, Cinnamon & Cloves)*
• 1/4 – 1/2 tsp Crushed/Powdered Saffron

• 1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
• 3/4 – 1 tsp Ginger Powder


Garnish

• 3-4 Chopped Almonds
• Saffron Strands


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The Spices are the most important Thandai ingredients:)

Method:
1. Soak the cashews in boiling hot water for 1 hour (or more).

2. Heat the Almond/Coconut Milk in the microwave for 2 minutes & then infuse it with 3 bags of Black Tea/Masala Tea for 5 minutes. Once, the plant milk has taken on a brown tea colour, take out the tea bags & squeeze out every last bit of tea flavour & colour into the milk:)

3. Add the soaked cashews & 1/2 cup of the tea infused plant milk into a blender/food processor & blend the cashews until they are smooth & creamy.

4. Next, add all the spices, maple/agave syrup & the remaining tea infused plant milk into the cashew mixture & blend all the ingredients well. In the Ingredients list, I have given a range for the spice quantities, because the level of spices depends on your taste preference:) I suggest that you first add the lower range/quantity mentioned for each spice & then after doing a taste test (Taste. Tweak. Repeat.), you can add more spices & maple/agave syrup (sweetener) if required:)

5. Once the mixture is blended to perfection, pour the creamy & frothy Thandai into serving glasses & place them in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, giving a chance for all the spices to infuse their wonderful flavours into this fragrant beverage:) This drink is meant to be enjoyed chilled:) After all, the name of the drink itself demands icy cool perfection;) Once you’re ready to serve the Thandai, take out the glasses from the fridge, given the mixture a quick stir using a spoon & garnish the drink with chopped almonds & saffron strands:) And voila! Your Vegan Chai Spiced Thandai is ready:) Happy Holi:)


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Notes:
* I like my Thandai to be quite thick & creamy:) If you want the drink to have a thinner consistency, just add 1/4 – 1/2 cup more of Almond/Coconut Milk:)
* I infused the almond/coconut milk with tea bags because I wanted the Thandai to have an earthy tea taste & colour:) However, the taste of the tea is very subtle in the final drink (it’s more about the colour) & hence, this step is optional. So if you’re short on time/patience, feel free to skip the tea bags & jump to the blender directly:)

* I’m originally from Kolkata, West Bengal in India & as a Bengali, I love my Bengali Garam Masala Powder:) It’s mainly used in savoury dishes & has a beautiful aroma. You can easily make your own Bengali Garam Masala Powder at home using Cloves, Cinnamon & Cardamom & a spice/coffee grinder. Check out this easy recipe by Saffron Streaks.
* You can either grind all the spices together in a spice/coffee grounder or use individual homemade/store bought powdered spices (like I did). I usually grind my spices once a month & I make larger batches of the individual powdered ingredients, in order to have them ready for future use:) I recommend crushing the saffron with your fingers, instead of using a grinder:)

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