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Wed, Feb. 20th, 2013, 10:31 pm
Making Mead

Masala Chai Mead
Makes 1 gallon

Ingredients (approximate):
11c unfiltered apple cider
4lbs (5c) wildflower honey
2T PG tips (blend of Assam, Ceylon and Kenyan black tea)
2T cardamom seeds (crushed)
4.5 cinnamon sticks (cracked)
2T star anise (cracked)
2T cloves (crushed)
2T black pepper (crushed)
1/2 a nutmeg (grated)
2 pods vanilla (sliced lengthwise)
1/4lb of fresh ginger (sliced into ⅛” discs)
30 golden raisins
1 packet Fleischmann's Yeast

2 1-gallon glass jugs with caps
1 airlock (a balloon with a pinprick in it will serve)
1 siphoning hose

Combine all ingredients in a one gallon jug. Cap with an airlock and leave in a cool, dark place. After two months, or once fermentation has stopped and sediment has begun to settle to the bottom, replace the airlock with a bottle cap. After another two months, siphon off the mead above the sediment into a clean one gallon jug and cap. Let sit until ready to serve. When bottling for serving, avoiding disturbing any residual sediment and siphon into a clean bottle.

Started 9/6/12
Capped 11/14/12 - at this point clove was the overpoweringly primary flavor, with faint hints of cardamom and cinnamon.
Racked 1/14/13 - at this point the clove flavor had mellowed out, allowing the other spices to come through more strongly.
Bottled 2/20/13 - at this point, the spices blend very nicely, creating a sweet, warm mead with a well-rounded flavor profile.

This is the very first mead I’ve brewed, and I did it with practically no equipment. I brewed in the jug the cider came in and used a balloon for an airlock. I actually did not have a siphon, so I simply poured between containers as slowly and carefully as I could, with the aid of a funnel. While my other supplies served admirably in spite of their humbleness, I do strongly recommend actually siphoning the mead rather than pouring it, as I ended up transferring a fair amount of sediment each time.

This recipe is entirely of my own devising and is not period. With the exception of the vanilla, which is a New World seasoning, I made an effort to mimic a traditional Indian masala chai spice blend. This is why I used spices native to India such as star anise and cassia even though they were not available in Europe during period. Unfortunately, I could not find any pure Assam black tea, so I approximated by using a blend that includes it. Although a mead similar to this one could have theoretically been made in the mid 1600s, by which time vanilla, star anise, cassia, and tea had become available in Europe, it’s unlikely that anyone would have done so; the combination of masala chai with vanilla is a purely modern innovation, and the incorporation of vanilla masala chai into mead likely even more so.

The Masali Chai Mead is in the jug on the right. This is what it looked like the day after I started fermentation - very cloudy with a noticeably inflated balloon.
And here is its appearance after two months of fermentation - clearer, with a layer of sediment settled on the bottom, and a completely deflated balloon. Note how the tea and spices have infused into it, giving it a much darker color than the mead beside it.