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Recent Tasting Notes
Chai-eeeeee, chai-eeeee. Opening this tea sample, I hear the chant of the chai-wallahs emanating from stalls that dot the streets of urban and rural India. I am reminded of the rickety wooden thella – housing a stove, an aluminum pan, and the ingredients required for making tea. Chai…ahh…the aroma!
Tea culture in India was virtually non-existent until the early 1900s when the British made efforts to popularize it, giving rise to the great chai stall. Tradition holds that this particular blend of chai was discovered by accident by a chai-wallah, plying his trade one day in the Lal Bagh garden, when he discovered that rose petals from a bush being pruned nearby had fallen into his teapot.
Bangalore Rose Chai was born.
And indeed, this tea reflects the beauty of that garden. The floral note lends a touch of glamour, softening the taste of spice that we associate with ancient caravans. The black tea (a Ceylon BOP, in this case) is not overwhelmed by the additional ingredients; creating a perfect balance. Add a little milk and honey and it will really shine.
I always like to think the humdrum of life is best ignored over a cup of chai. This loose tea blends all of its characters to string an aromatic and flavoursome tale that could keep me daydreaming for days….
Anyone who has travelled through India will have tasted Chai. Traditional Chai is made with strong black tea with the addition of spices and milk. It is drunk throughout the day as a restorative. This Chai ‘blend’ from Cartel Roasters is ready to go chai – just brew and add milk (and, perhaps, a sweetener).
The ingredients are the usual suspects: Premium Ceylon black tea, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, bay leaf and cloves . It smells of raisins and wood…and entices.
Steeped for 3-4 minutes (95 degrees), the tea has a full, robust flavour with some astringency. You can drink it straight up with no additions. You can brew it stovetop in a 1:1 ratio of milk and water. Or you can brew it at a concentrated strength in water and then add a splash of steamed milk. It is recommended to add a sweetener to accentuate the spices. And on that note, I can’t help but feel the spices have been lost along the way. Or perhaps I have had too many cups of sweet chia in Nepal and my palate is biased.
Post-script: After a long 3rd steep, this chai improved. As the tea loses its boldness, the spices come through and the balance improves.