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Recipe: DIY Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte

Photo courtesy of American Tea Room
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The weather might not change very much here in always sunny SoCal, so we look to seasonal indicators like produce and flavor profiles to help us figure out where we are on the calendar. And nothing is more synonymous with fall than the flavors of pumpkin spice.

Starbucks' pumpkin spice lattes are the powerhouse in this department, but there are plenty of drinks and eats out there that use these warming autumnal flavors without the undertones of burnt coffee. One of them is American Tea Room in Beverly Hills, where owner David Barenholtz uses some of his teas to make soul-warming sips like his pumpkin spice chai.

Barenholtz spends a good portion of the year traveling the world looking for the best tea leaves around to sell in his sleek Canon Drive storefront. And spicy ATR's Cape Town Chai makes for a perfect caffeine-free tea latte that allows you to enjoy the seasonal flavors minus the espresso-driven jitters. Though Barenholtz uses store-bought pumpkin spice syrup, which you can find readily at Cost Plus World Market, we suggest using this awesome recipe for homemade syrup from The Messy Baker.

Here's how it's done:

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For drink

3 heaping teaspoons loose leaf chai (American Tea Room recommends its Cape Town Chai)
12 oz water
6 oz milk
1 oz pumpkin spice syrup (see below)
1/2 teaspoon caramel sauce, plus a drizzle to garnish

For syrup

*recipe via The Messy Baker

1 and 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 and 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract


Start by making the syrup. In a medium saucepan, add water and both sugars. Simmer on medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes. Turn the heat down to low and whisk in cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and pumpkin puree. Simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not allow the mixture to come to a boil. Remove from the heat and strain through a mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth or a very thin, clean tea towel.
Allow the syrup to cool to room-temperature before stirring in the vanilla extract. Store in a mason jar or airtight container. The syrup will last for 1 month at room-temperature or 3 months in the refrigerator.

Once the syrup has cooled, assemble the latte. Measure out 3 heaping teaspoons of loose leaf chai and brew into 12 oz. of water at 200 degrees for 5 minutes.  (200 degrees is just below boiling, so boil your water, then wait a minute for it to cool if you don't have an electric kettle with a thermometer.) Meanwhile, steam or froth 6 oz. of milk. To your tea brew, add 1 oz. pumpkin spice syrup and 1/2 teaspoon caramel. Mix thoroughly. Combine your tea and milk, dolloping a bit of foam on top. Drizzle a little caramel on top. Enjoy.