This one comes with a bit of a story. Prepare yourself for a lengthy post. Fingers on scroll-buttons.
I was a scout when I was a child. At one point when I was around 9-11 or so, we had these two pretty alternative individuals as leaders. Two younger men, who seemed to be brought up on the belief that sweets=evil and if it came from the Far East it was Good by definition. This is why, whenever we had any sort of celebration of sorts, like before holiday breaks or the last time before christmas or what have you, we had chai.
I had never heard about it before, and I didn’t have the slightest clue that it was something to do with tea. And back then I wouldn’t have cared either. All I remember about it was this strangely coloured spicy fluid that was just about drinkable, all the while wondering what the heck was suddenly so wrong with hot cocoa! So I was biased against chai at a fairly early age.
Many many years later I started getting interested in tea and one day I purchased a chai (Tengla chai, from Chaplon) to see if it was really so horrible as I had remembered it and also out of curiosity about the fact that there are as many recipies for chai as there are people in the world, just about. Oh, I remember it well. There were instructions for how to make it with milk and what not. I didn’t like it one bit. Couldn’t get it down. There was something or other in it that made it impossible for me to swallow without making a face and got rid of the rest of it in the first and the best swap that came along. Having shown people the list of ingredients it had in it, I have been told that the thing I didn’t like was likely ginger.
Fast forward to this past saturday. There’s a really great ice cream shop near where I live. They make a load of different flavours, some fairly unusual (it’s the only place, for example, that I’ve ever seen a plum sorbet. Which by the way is delicious) and you never quite now what they have to choose from on any given day. This past saturday they had one called chai latte. I don’t much care for chai, but I like tea a lot, so I’m enough of a dork that I had to try that one. There was just NO WAY I’d be able to walk away from it ever.
Turns out chai turned to ice cream was rather nice. Surprisingly nice. Nice enough that I could totally buy it again if I saw it there another time. It made me think that possibly it was time to give chai another chance.
So today, when going home from work, I went into Baresso and got a small chai-cino. I’ve seen people log chai latte or some such from Starbucks and I assume this is pretty much the same deal. They make it like a cafe latte (or in this case, like a cappucino) only instead of the espresso shot, they use this chai mix. I just got a small one, in case of extreme dislike. I’ve tried looking it up on their website and it would appear that the contents of said chai mix is a closely guarded secret. Can’t say I’m really surprised there.
They asked me, “do you want cinnamon on top?”
I dithered a bit on this and finally answered, “yes please, but not too much.”
This, apparently, was not a problem. Except, I saw his colleague make it and her definition of ‘not too much cinnamon’ was about three times my definition of same. I would have stopped her, but I hadn’t realised yet at the time that it was my order.
It was very very very VERY sweet. Sweet and fat. I’m glad I only got the small one, because I don’t think I’d be able to finish the large one. And I’m honestly not usually all that fat-frightened. You’d be amazed at the amount of cake with whipped cream I’m capable of consuming with utmost pleasure.
The contents of the chai mix being a state secret, I tried to decipher the flavour myself. There was cinnamon, definitely. The lot she had shaken on top was pretty overwhelming, but I’m certain there was cinnamon in the chai mix itself too. Also vanilla. And definitely sugar. These were most obvious flavours. I also picked up a note of something that I suspect might have been anise and something that was possibly cloves. Rather surprisingly I couldn’t find anything in the flavour that reminded me all that much of cardamom, but I expect it was probably hiding underneath all that cinnamon.
I liked it. I wouldn’t say I loved it, but it was drinkable. Definitely more so than my previous encounters, and I’m not completely turned off the idea of experimenting a bit the concept, depending on the list of ingredients in any given chai. The chai-cino from Baresso is also available on ice, blended with ice cubes. Considering how sweet and fat the taste was, I think that might actually be the way it would work the best.