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It’s the last Monday of the month and time for a guest post…except that I seem to have run out of friends. And I dropped the ball harrassing my associates because I was sick. So in the interest of doing something creative on this final Monday in May, I took on a chai challenge.

Chai in Hindi means “tea”, and it’s traditionally a blend of black tea with spices, usually combined with milk and sweetened to enhance the spices. It’s become very popular in North America, and many tea sommeliers have created chai blends and flavoured chai blends. For example, I’m currently a big fan of David’s S’mores Chai blend or Baked Apple Chai.

I pulled out every brand of chai in my cupboard, 7 in total, boiled the kettle and made some tasting notes. I’m listing them alphabetically and to keep it short (because all that tea makes one need desperately to pee), I’m giving you the brand, ingredients, and my quick notes.

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Brand: David’s Tea

Ingredients: organic, black, ginger, cinnamon, anise, cardamom, clove buds, star anise, black pepper

Tasting Notes: Similar to a traditional chai. There was heat, particularly strong bitter/floral from cardamom and star anise, but felt it lacked depth as a black tea. I may not have used enough. It probably reminded me the most of the chai blend I made at home. This loose leaf was comprised of whole spices (i.e., cardamom pods, star anise) and rolled organic tea leaves. Cost is $9/50g. All the ingredients are listed as organic and the caffeine level is marked “low”.

Brand: President’s Choice

Ingredients: black tea leaves, ginger root, cinnamon bark, star anise fruit, cloves, cardamom seeds

Tasting Notes: More subtle flavour but still very pleasant, with warmth from ginger and cinnamon. Also more cost-effective and available in grocery stores. Sold in individual sachets.

Brand: Tazo

Ingredients: Black tea, cinnamon, cardamom, black peppercorns

Tasting Notes: More expensive. Individual triangualar-shaped fabric tea came in a metal tin. I think it is also sold in sachets in a cardboard box.

This tea has a real kick! Very strong, bold spices, but flavour is overpowered by pepper. My tongue went numb very quickly. Perhaps a bit too “zingy” for me. Also more expensive.

Brand: Tetley

Ingredients: black tea, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, clover and ginger

Tasting Notes: Aromatic. Makes the tastebuds tingle deliciously. Warmth from ginger and cinnamon. Pleasant blend of the other spices. can be brewed for quite strong cuppa. Reminded me a bit of mild ginger snap cookies. More cost effective and available in most grocery/pharmacies.

Brand: Tim Horton’s

Ingredients: black tea, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, ground peppercorn, cardamom

Tasting Notes: Moderately priced individual satchets sold in Tim Horton’s chains and some grocery stores. Lots of pepper and ginger. Faint mustiness (but it might have been an older bag). I find there is a difference between the sachets sold in stores vs. sold prepared, but I may be a biased because Tim’s stores uses very hot water, and if I’m ordering it prepared, I’ve been out and I “need” a drink! 🙂

Brand: T’Kettle Chai Kick

Ingredients: rooibos, tumeric, cinnamon, ginger, carob, strawberry leaves, coconut, clove, chili pepper, cardamom, black pepper

Tasting Notes: Rosy amber colour, likely because the base is rooibos, which also makes it caffeine-free. A nice option! Spices were evident but I found it quite fruity and sweet, with a predominate flavour of coconut. It is a loose leaf tea, but such a fine grind that it escaped my infuser, leaving a lot of bits floating in the tea cup, which can be off-putting. Cost is comparable to David’s Tea @10/50g.

Brand: Twinings

Ingredients: black tea, cinnamon, cardamom, clover and ginger

Tasting Notes: sweeter than others while retaining warmth from the cinnamon and ginger. A good strong cup of tea. Sold as sachets and harder to find in stores.

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Not eveyone is a fan of spicy black teas, but T’Kettle did have a caffeine-free chai, and David’s Tea also provides caffeine-free forms of chai, like Cinnamon Rooibos Chai.

One of my favourite things to do is to steep a regular pot of tea but add an infuser with Chai. Lately my top 2 for this process have been David’s S’Mores Chai and President’s Choice Chocolate Chai. I have also done this after brewing a chai tea as many of those spices retain flavour for more than just one cup.

One reviewer on David’s site recommended steeping some chai with hot chocolate to “lessen the zip”.

Everyone’s taste buds are a little different, but don’t be afraid to get spicy, and try some chai.

No problem on Earth can’t be ameliorated by a hot bath and a cup of tea.

Jasper Fforde