Budget-friendly Homemade Chai Coffee

Every morning for the past week, I’ve been brewing decaf coffee at home. Finally, I understood what was going on: I love a strong cup of coffee each morning. What I don’t love is the bill that I get when I visit the coffeehouse. I try to save that trip for special occasions, because $4 a day can really add up.

But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck making a plain old cup of joe at home. As a dietitian, I can assure you that making a gourmet coffee at home is going to be healthier, cheaper, and a great way to fit dairy into your diet!

With the help of my favorite (and messiest) barista, my 2-year-old daughter, we put together step-by-step instructions for how to create a delicious and inexpensive chai coffee at home. 

Step 1: Gather the ingredients: 2 tbsp. ground coffee (regular or decaf), 1 ½ cups low-fat milk, 1 cup water, 4 tsp. sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 tsp. cloves, and 2 tsp. allspice.  

When my daughter started to show her love of chocolate and coffee, I knew she was mine. We always opt for decaf coffee and lots of milk for her, so this recipe was perfect! And I was able to enjoy it in the afternoon without the caffeine keeping me up all night. 

Step 2: Measure out ground coffee into a coffee filter. Take a deep breath and let your child do the measuring. You’ll end up with spilled coffee grounds, but it will be OK. (I say this more for myself than for you.)

Step 3: Add the cinnamon stick, cloves and allspice to the coffee in the filter. The recipe calls for cardamom seeds or allspice, but we chose allspice since it’s something we will use in the future, keeping our purchases in line with our budget. Measuring took some extra time because my daughter wanted to count out each individual clove while adding to the coffee. It was a great learning experience!

Step 4: Add water to the coffee pot, add the filter to the coffeemaker and brew coffee. At 2 years old, pouring is a really exciting activity. One more reason why this recipe is great for a blossoming chef.

Step 5: Heat the milk in the microwave until steaming hot. The activity of adding cloves to the coffee really enthused my daughter, so some cloves ended up in the milk, which actually gave it a really nice flavor. She’s a genius!

Step 6: Add sugar to the steamed milk. We opted for sugar packets on this step. The thought of sugar poured all over the place made me decide on something my daughter could tear open and easily pour in. 

Step 7: Leave the cleanup for later. It’s time to enjoy the coffee.

Step 8: Split the coffee between two mugs and top with milk. The coffee had a great flavor from the added chai spices. Definitely a must try!

And hey, while we are playing coffeehouse, we might as well throw in some muffins. When you load your diet with nutrient-rich foods like milk and milk products, everything in moderation can have a place in your day.

By Caroline Sullivan, MS, RD, CSSD, LD

I am a sports dietitian and mom. My family loves being outside, being active and eating good food. My goal is to teach others that healthy can be easy.

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