This week we’re looking at three types of chai by The Tao of Tea in my quest for a really good chai to wake me up in the mornings These teas are all 100% organic, but the tins are incredibly long-winded, so I’ve omitted the history and botany information for the sake of brevity.
Sample: 500 mile Chai
Description: Origin: India. [...]The tale of ’500 mile chai’ originates from the many late night truck rivers stopping at small Chai stands ‘Dhabas’ on the highway and asking for really strong, sweet Chai to help them drive long distances (in a humerous tone – ‘for another 500 miles’). The grade of tea commonly used for Chai is known as ‘Cut, Tear, and Curl (CTC)’, representing a heavily rolled leaf pellet with very low moisture content. [...] Once the leaf has been optimally boiled, adding milk and sugar provides a delightful ‘Golden Glow’. We hand blend the organic black tea with organic spices – ginger, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon. [...] Use one teaspoon of 500 Mile Chai for eight ounces water. Bring to full boil for three minutes. Add whole milk/soy milk (in a ratio of 1/4 milk to 3/4 water) and let boil another two minutes.
Preparation: Steeped in the kettle for three minutes at 212. Since the directions given are impractical for our purposes, we then boiled some vanilla soymilk and then added it in.
Review: Chaos, having done all the prep work, tried it first; his first comment was “Not bad.” The smell was rich, warm, and spicy, reminding Yami of Christmas somehow (ginger snaps, perhaps? With warm milky cocoa?). Unfortunately, the flavor was overwhelmed at first by the less than stellar water quality (even after going through a filter). The addition of sugar helped considerably, adding to the Christmas cookie effect. Chaos adds, “It’s kind of spicy, kind of a smooth sort of feeling.” Kae noted after a second cup that steeping for 4-5 minutes instead of three helps the spiciness considerably. He also noted that adding milk after the fact tastes the same as boiling the milk separately and adding it hot; boiling it with the tea might give different results.
Would Buy? A general affirmative all around. Yami wants something spicier for her morning tea, though, it’s a little too smooth for that purpose, and Chaos adds that the complexity of brewing makes it more of a weekend tea anyway.
Sample: Mate Chai
Description: Mate Chai is a blend of aged, organic Yerba Mate and organic spices – cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom. [...] Cooling, spicy, with bitter sweet flavor notes. Will provide at least 3-4 reinfusions.
Preparation: Steeped for 6 minutes at 212F.
Review: This one smells spicier and more like evergreens than ginger snaps, and is green in color. After one sip, Chaos announced excitedly, “I actually taste the spice in that!” Yami felt it tasted more like pine needles than spice, and after adding soymilk just tasted bitter with a green aftertaste. Kae says it’s “not bad”, but is less spicy than the 500 mile chai, which he prefers. Chaos declares that correct, but adds “it’s pretty good.” Yami only reconciled with the tea partially after adding sugar, though she still doesn’t like the aftertaste; it tasted more strong to her than to the others, and unpleasant.
Would Buy? Kae and Chaos yes, Yami no.
Sample: Red Bush Chai
Description: A caffeine-free blend of South African Rooibos and uplifting spices. [...] We hand blend Rooibos with organic cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and spearmint. Use one teaspoon of Red Bush Chai for eight ounces water. Bring to full boil for three minutes. Add whole milk / soy milk (in ratio of 1/4 milk to 3/4 water) and let boil another two minutes. Strain and sweeten to taste. Full bodied flavor, slightly spicy, cooling and sweet flavor.
Preparation: Steeped for 5 minutes at 212F
Review: While pouring, Chaos announced, “This tea is f-ing red.” It also had a strong aroma, though it’s hard to place what it is other than pleasant – it reminds Yami of a cinnamon Altoid. Chaos added, “This is not as heavily flavored as I thought it would be, I do kind of like this.” Yami could taste primarily the water in her undoctored cup, with a hint of bitter and just a smidge of spices at the back of her throat. Kae agrees that it “is kind of weak, with a nice, slightly minty aftertaste to it which is nice.” After adding vanilla soymilk and sugar, Yami found the brew much improved, though still lacking that chai kick she was hoping for. Chaos agrees that milk and sugar help a lot but the taste of the local water is still the strongest part of the aftertaste. Nobody found it to be much of a chai.
Would Buy? Yami might consider it. Chaos would buy it if it wasn’t expensive, and Kae would buy it every once in a while when he wanted a different minty tea.
It looks like the lesson to be learned is, if you want good tea, live someplace with good water.