You know, chai is a staple for me in the winter. It is, nine times out of ten, how I start my mornings. There’s something particularly special about the smell of chai in your kitchen before the sun is fully up on a cold Boston morning, sitting and looking out from an eighteenth-story window at the city skyline. All the better if it’s snowing at the time.
Not so much in summer. Something about hot milk in the heat, you know? But I haven’t had it for just a long enough period of time that I was excited to find some chai in the swap package from Auggy, especially since she’d noted to me that she’s not super-fond of chai overall unless it’s more sweet than spicy (do you know how difficult that was for me? Do you KNOW how much chai I was obligated not to share? It is to weep).
So, yes! I made this, this morning. The smell coming out of the package was fantastic, though I will admit that having avoided chai for a while, some of that could be chai-deprivation speaking. Made it in the usual manner — stovetop, simmered in sweetened water for a bit, then topped off with an equal part milk (1% today) and reheated to near foaming, removed from heat, let sit, strained and poured.
It’s not bad. It’s primarily strong on cinnamon. With imbalanced chais I tend to prefer the ones that are heavy on cinnamon to those that are heavy on cardamom, since the latter tend to make my tongue numb. This one is strongest on cinnamon but not overpoweringly so. There’s some almond and vanilla there, but they’re in the background. I don’t get orange at all from the tea, but this could just be a function of the stovetop method, I dunno. I’ll probably have to make a point of trying it plain…but I will confess, I can’t really think of any chais that I’ve liked that way more than I like stovetop chai; the spices are usually way too much for me without the mitigating creaminess of this method of preparation.
It’s pretty tasty, but I think I’ve discovered slowly but surely that CTC leaf really does hold up better to my favored way to prepare chai. Most other leaves get that slightly bitter edge that milk and sweetener soften but don’t eliminate.
I’d drink this without complaint, and with enjoyment, if it were given to me, but it’s just not doing anything that makes it stand out from an ocean of other similar chais. The aroma is lovely (to me) but the flavor is pretty standard-fare.
Still a very nice way to start the day, when I have a loooooong and undoubtedly painful slog through a whole slew of pages that need writing today. Getting started after a small vacation is always very trying, so a chai caffeine bomb was probably the right idea!