Chai in the US has almost become synonymous with "Masala" Chai - a concoction of black tea with many different spices - cardamom, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, fennel, etc. I have never been a fan of Masala Chai - its either too peppery or too gingery or full of cloves. When I drink Chai, I want it to first taste like chai and then let the flavours, either ginger or cardamom or whatever, dance around my mouth till the next sip comes along. When I have a Masala Chai, I get hit by a burst of spices and I am left thinking "where is the chai?"
A lot of the Chai mixes one can buy online or in stores as well as the Chai found in most cafes are all various blends of "Masala" Chai - setting the expectation that Chai is meant to be spicy. The lone Chai Cart couldnt fight that expectation. I had to cave in and do a Masala Chai - but it had to be one that I enjoyed drinking.
Riding on success of the Green Chili Chai, I thought it would be an easy task - throw in all the spices together and there you have it - Masala Chai. The first time I made it, I had to force myself to take the second sip. Yes, it was so bad. I blamed it on the spices and made a trip to the Indian store in Berkeley to buy authentic Indian spices. I had no such excuse for the second try, third try, the fourth....and I was about to give up in frustration. Just then, on a cold, rainy night, it all came together - that perfect cup of Masala Chai.
I instantly fell in love with the complexity. With the first sip, I could taste the cardamom; with the second sip, the cloves and the hint of black pepper; there was definitely ginger in the next sip along with the cardamom; and was the sweetness coming from the sugar or the cinnamon? The spices were perfectly balanced with the tea.
Is it weird to blog about the love for one's own chai? Is it narcissism or is it a passion for perfection? I dont judge. I drink chai and I sell the chai I love drinking.