Chai Chai Chai!
Samovar’s Masala Chai is quite good. It’s peppery and “warm” but not hot. I go a little heavy handed, but it’s easy to experiment and find the perfect spot for your tastes.
The presweetened Chai mixes I’ve tried just seem fake to me. Take the time to brew up your own and use a quality rock sugar to sweeten it just right for you.
It doesn’t seem fake to me- but I will agree that it is a different beverage (this may also be because I don’t like my loose leaf chai sweetened). I like both. I wonder if one could use stone ground black tea instead of instant tea when making instant chai mix? If you could, that would surely make it taste less fake. Would you use the same amount of stone ground tea as you would instant?
Samovar’s is my favorite, hands down.
Tazo makes a decent chai as well as a chai latte mix. It’s a good starting point for people who are new to chai IMO.
Another good one is Adagio’s Thai Chai – it’s a bit unconventional with coconut and lemongrass added to it, but it’s ridiculously delicious.
Not everyone is a fan of anise which Tazo contains. I’m personally not a fan of coconut, but I can see that if you were Thai chai would DEFINITELY be good. One could also try different milks like almond, coconut, or even strawberry as a way to add flavor.
Samovar’s is very rich -I would recommend it. the 52 teas MayanChoclate chai is good but not a typical chai. I love LiberTeas Chai but I don’t think she is in business any more. The Kashmiri chai from Golden Moon is too mild for me.
As good as I personally think Mayan Chocolate Chai is, it’s not an option for Jayscar’s girlfriend cuz she doesn’t like it too spicy and it’s the most spicy chai I’ve ever had.
I think there may have been a few tins of LiberTeas Chai left on her website. If you place an order and like caramel tea (for yourself?) hers is very good as well!
I love Tipu’s Chai (tipuschai.com). However, this the real McCoy: very spicy and very delicious! It comes unsweetened and organic; and made with wind power from the plains of Montana.
Another alternative to the traditional chai latte mix that would allow you to control the quality of the ingredients would be to steep chai spices in a mixture of half milk and half water and then add stone ground black tea (sold here http://muzitea.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=MUZI_US&Product_Code=3-06654-00316-0&Category_Code=006&Product_Count=0) muzi even has a chai spice mix sans tea you could buy just to see how you and your girlfriend like making chais that way before buying all the spices. I have not tried this method yet, but think I will- as much as I love loose leaf chai, I also love powdered chai latte mix, but I’m personally not a fan of powdered creamer or powdered milk. I think I’d really like this method- hopefully you will too! And it’d be another reason for me to use my chawan:)
Tao of Tea sells CTC Assam under the name “Sada Chai” – works great as a base to make you own spice and tea blend. I add a little Nilgiri tea and blend the tea 50:50 with cut&dried ginger, coarse ground pepper, broken cinnamon sticks and crushed cardamom pods for an easy basic masala chai that can be fiddled around with.
I was trying to find chai in HSN’s Eat, Pray, Love collection (they don’t have it- dang it) and ended up finding this http://kitchen-dining.hsn.com/easy-exotic-by-padma-lakshmi-masala-chai-and-spice-tea-gift-set_p-5803255_xp.aspx?web_id=5803255&ocm=sekw I haven’t tried it, but it looks like a great gift idea.
If you’re interested in making chai the long way – the best chai that I’ve made at home was from whole spices, broken open with a mortar and pestle, and simmered on the stove (some recipes call for as long as an hour, although I’ve only done maybe 15-30 minutes at the most) – less spices and shorter duration for less spiciness, and more spices and longer cooking time for more spiciness. At the end, add the black tea and simmer for a few minutes more. The main advantage of this method over steeping pre-mixed spices and tea is that you can adjust the spiciness and the strength of the black tea independently (I like mine really spicy, but you can make it as spicy as you like!). Ground spices added to plain black tea would also work, but the end result would be a bit gritty. I can’t recommend exact cooking times or amounts since it’s been a while since I made chai this way and I didn’t take notes, but you’ll want to adjust the times to your own tastes (or your girlfriend’s) anyway. The spices I use are:
Green cardamom pods
I buy the spices at an Indian grocery at a very reasonable price. You can also find them at a spice store like Penzey’s – the might be higher quality, but also more expensive. You can use any strong black tea you like, but I think Darjeeling is traditional.
You can simmer either with or without the milk included – without milk, the tea will last longer (2-3 days) if you plan to refrigerate any leftover tea. Add the desired amount of sugar (and milk, if it’s not already added) to each cup. The sugar brings out the flavor of the spices, so don’t draw any conclusions about a batch until you’ve added the sugar.
Here’s a website with several recipes: http://www.chai-tea.org/recipes.html