Before I begin digging into this chai, allow me to state that, for the record, I have never been the hugest fan of chai blends. I used to actively hate the stuff, but an Indian restaurant in my hometown and exposure to a few solid blends changed that last year. I’m still not the hugest fan, however, and it is not something I aspire to drink often. I guess I’m still trying to find that one blend that gets everything right for me. Unfortunately, this one was not it.
I prepared this tea in the Western style. I steeped 3 grams of this chai blend in approximately 8 ounces of 194 F water for 5 minutes. I attempted no additional infusions. I first tried the infused liquor neat and then with additions of milk and honey.
Prior to infusion, this blend emitted strong aromas of malt, cardamom, ginger, and saffron underscored by touches of nutmeg. The infused liquor displayed all of the above plus touches of wood, brown toast, caramel, and molasses. In the mouth, this blend was biting, astringent, and quick to turn bitter. Notes of malt, cream, brown toast, wood, roasted walnut, caramel, and molasses from the CTC Assam base gave way to strident notes of cardamom, ginger, and saffron underscored by a somewhat gentler nutmeg presence. The finish was similarly biting and astringent with lingering maltiness, nuttiness, and touches of molasses balancing a more integrated spice attack. Typical of chai blends, this was definitely not meant for drinking neat.
With milk, this blend was a rather different beast. The astringency was tamed. Cream, malt, caramel, and roasted walnut rose to the fore while the saffron somewhat faded to offer a greater opportunity for the nutmeg, ginger, and cardamom to shine. I generally take my chai with milk and a touch of honey, but this was not bad with only milk. Still, I felt like the spice aromas and flavors were a little too toned down (to be clear, it was not like I added a ton of milk) and that the blend had lost a little too much of its previously ferocious bite.
With both milk and a touch of honey, I felt that this blend lost all focus. It became a bit too sweet, the saffron and ginger once again popped just a little too much, and the finish turned muddy. Of the three preparations, this one was perhaps my least favorite.
In the end, I was not really sure about this chai. No matter how much I played around with it, I could not quite get it to where I wanted it to be. To be fair though, it was a pretty simplistic blend, so I’m not surprised that it was hard for me to dial it in with additives. Perhaps an additional spice or two would have allowed for the retention of greater depth and complexity once additives came into play. I think cinnamon, black pepper, and/or bay leaf could have worked wonders in this blend. As it stands, I’m glad I tried this chai, but I doubt I would order it again.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Brown Toast, Caramel, Cardamom, Cream, Ginger, Malt, Molasses, Nutmeg, Roasted Nuts, Saffron, Wood