Chai recommendations, light on the clove
So, I am looking for a loose leaf masala chai or similar and spicy. But, I am just not a very big fan of cloves and just about everything I have tried lately has been do dominated by it. I adore cardamon, peppercorns, cinnamon, ginger, and other flavors. Not so much, however, for clove.
Things I have tried lately have been
Harney and Sons Chai
Harney and Sons Holiday Tea
Adagio Masala Chai
Adagio Oriental Spice
A few different types of Twinings (can’t remember exact ones)
All of them have been so dominated by clove that I just ended up throwing them away.
I have tried Teavana’s Oprah’s Chai. The clove took a back seat here and it wasn’t bad, but certainly didn’t knock my socks off.
I bought a sampler 3 pack from TeaForte a number of years back. The Bombay Chai is the only one I finished, but I don’t remember enough about it to remember if it was because I liked it or just because it was the least worse of the three.
I don’t like sweet and I don’t like milk, cream, or similar in my tea either. I don’t really have the time or inclination to make my own.
So I’m hoping someone here might have some suggestions on something that might be more to my taste. I prefer a black base.
There are an endless variety of Chai. To get away from clove, you might try a chocolate chai or a Thai Chai. Other flavored chai… Rose or vanilla are nice. Search using those terms and find a tea company you would like to try.
Anything that is described as Bombay will probably have clove.
Adagio has Thai chai. I carry that too. Check out my tea list via my profile. My most popular is Oh My Chai, with white chocolate and floral tones. Not sweet though. If you decide to get some, let me know and I’ll sample you another chai or two.
Also look for rainforest chai. Those blends are different too.
I have not had much luck with Adagio. Of the dozen samples I bought, I ended up throwing all but one away. The last one I should, but part of me keeps thinking that a Darjeeling has to taste better than leaves raked up from my back yard. And that eventually I will try it again and it will taste better. :)
Any recommendations on other tea companies to look at? I’m not familiar with very many and only two of those actually list the ingredients.
I have also not had very good luck with chocolate teas. And that’s from a couple different tea companies so I can’t just blame it on Adagio. :)
I’ve considered looking at a Thai style chai, but I’m really not that fond of lemongrass.
My chai’s are clove-free :-) https://whisperingpinestea.com/collections/masala-chai
EDIT: They have also been specifically formulated to be drank without additions :-)
It’s yummy…quite unique, though I believe that Eldorado Chai is exactly what you’re looking for. ;-)
I’d never heard of tellicherry peppercorns. Sounds utterly fascinating.
How strong is the vanilla?
Tellicherry peppercorn is awesome. It’s basically just older, more plump growth on the vine and that makes it less hot, but more aromatic and complex in taste.
The vanilla is more of an accent. Definitely noticeable but not over the top. I strive for really well balanced blends, so every aspect is there in its own supporting and unique way :-)
Since you have so many requirements it might be easier to blend your own than to find your goldilocks tea.
I wouldn’t consider a desire for something spicy that isn’t dominated by clove as so many requirements.
Didn’t mean to make it sound like you were being exacting :)
I meant no clove in addition to the no milk/sugar as a lot of chais are formulated for both and cloves are used as a “sweetening” element in teas formulated to be drank without sugar.
I would suggest you look for companies that list the ingredients for their Chai, then pick a chai without cloves at all or one where it is towards the end of the ingredient list. Companies are required to list the ingredients in the order of the weights measured so if cloves are towards the end there will be less of it. Don’t go by the ingredients in a Steepster page which lists them alphabetically.
Part of the difficulty is that there’s no way to search your old tasting notes. I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum – I like clove, and can’t stand cardomom – so I’m sure to have mentioned those flavors in my notes, but I’d need to go back and skim 400 notes to find them. Unless someone with similar preferences happens to see your post, or someone’s favorite chai happens to meet your requirements, you’re pretty much stuck searching on your own. Sorry :(
The Chai teas I’ve blended don’t have the clove. In any case, after refining a Steepster search and seeing Mariage Freres Chai, and some others…
I am inspired. I have a Cream Irish Breakfast, so I am going to blend the chai spices, no clove, with that. And possibly some butterscotch.
For Myself. Because I think I would like it.
Interesting, I didn’t even know people drank masala chai without milk. Out here in India, I’ve never seen anyone do that. Chai is made from CTC which is best had by boiling in milk, unlike say whole leaf flavoured tea blends which are fine with just water.
Typical masala chai will include cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, long pepper, dry ginger & clove. One way of avoiding clove would be to go for a cinnamon or cardamom only blends like these:
I fully admit to being weird at times. I am not a fan of anything sweet and just can’t stand milk/cream/etc in tea or coffee. I do, however, adore spices and have been known to spend the day sucking on black peppercorns. :)
And thank you for the suggestions. They do indeed look interesting.
OK good luck, sorry I couldn’t be more helpful as you were looking for loose leaf & those links were just CTC – hopefully you find something similar elsewhere.
My favourite commercial chai is from Cjay Tea in Markham. It’s pretty well balanced and reminds me strongly of my time in India. I’m not sure if it contains cloves, if so it is not a dominant flavour. It’s more focussed on cardamon and ginger. I buy it locally at wholefoods or local supermarkets. They are currently redoing their website hopefully making it more friendly for e-commerce before that it was focussed mainly for wholesale.
Dexter in her experiment with Chai really liked the one from https://www.capitaltea.com/shop/product.php?productid=278&cat=14&page=1. Though it looks like they are blended it so it might be worth asking Joel ( the owner of Capital Tea Ltd) about it. They also have a ginger tea that might work for you as well. He tends to provide excellent customer service and they have some very good value unflavoured Teas. Like others though I tend to mix my own Chai for the most part. I prefer cardamom and ginger focussed chai’s for the most part.
I read the part about not being inclined to make your own, and I get that, but it seems that’s likely to fit the bill best for you. Aversion to clove you’d mentioned, but tea quality and type would limit results too, as Psyck commented, since it’s a given that a CTC tea will be astringent. But if you can enjoy sucking on peppercorns you’ve got more tolerance for spice than I do, really the main reason chais sort of don’t work for me without the milk and sugar aspects, at least not made in a more standard (strong) flavor profile.
Spices come in better and worse versions, as tea does, and freshness can also be an issue, but starting with a slightly better black tea can make a lot of difference, and cutting back astringency can offset improvements from putting work into spice sourcing. Really black teas that are much, much better don’t need to be so expensive, and they can provide a broad range of natural taste elements (earthier, some floral, etc.). Ginger is easy to work around because fresh root is available everywhere, not expensive, and easy to use, just grate or shave some in, so you’re almost down to accepting what cardamom turns up (standard peppercorn and cinnamon are probably ok). If cost is not an issue using fresh vanilla pods / beans is interesting, since the taste is much different, and they provide an unusually creamy texture, but those do add some prep work. Even after scraping out the (bean?) part you can still add the pods to a tea blend, since it’s not really possible to just remove it all.
The nicest part of making your own blend—aside from work involved, the likely deal-breaker—is that your imagination can point out what might work. I’ve used lapsang souchong to make a smokey version, and that was nice, and made related Christmas blend versions using ingredients like cherry and nectarine. All that wouldn’t have to relate to hours in the kitchen of commitment, since it would be a snap to dry an apple peal and go with that as an ingredient instead. If just mixing spices nutmeg doesn’t make the standard list but it seems to match well to me, and it holds up well to spice-jar storage time.
If you decide to go the blend it yourself route, Herbs Teas & Treasures has black tea, (cassia/spicy) cinnamon chips, cut ginger, and whole cardamom and peppercorns. You can get an ounce of each for $8. Shipping is pretty reasonable at $6. No idea of the quality, but if you wanted to buy everything in one place for a decent price to get started, it might be worth considering.
I’m not, strictly speaking, averse to making my own. But I wear multiple hats at work, often hit 60 hours a week, and a 3 hour daily commute (both ways) means I’m usually only home long enough to shove some food in my mouth, shower, and grab a few hours of sleep before I’m back out the door again.
Happily, I love what I do. But it doesn’t give me much time to even slow down let alone tinker with things.
I actually just tasted Numi’s Golden Chai, which might be right up your ally. It wasn’t super strong, but it was reasonably spicy, not sweet, and had cardamom and black pepper and no clove.