Too many of us Americans, "chai" is a shorthand way of saying "tea with spices and some milk and sweetner and vanilla mix". We usually ask for chai at coffee shops, expecting something called Chai Latte. Which is the above, but some creamerish somthing instead of milk. We drink it hot, or iced. It is kind of, if you will pardon the expression, the Potted Meat of tea. We never know what goes into it. We don't want to know. It tastes good enough and gosh darn it, I'll take a Tall with extra whipped topping and a dash of cinnamon.
As tea snobs are learning, chai as we know it is something of a falsity. Not only does the word "chai" just pretty much mean "tea", but so much of the chai we receive is a package deal designed to pawn off poorer quality tea and poorer quality spices. In that same sense of irony that makes us pay more for the relatively inexpensive to make Iced Milk (redubbed as "Lowfat Icecream"), we pay double or more in cafes around the country for tea that cheats us by tricking us into thinking it is good.
American style chais have several options. Of them, some of the best to pick up come from Stash. Inexpensive, relatively, and tending to be a good mix of flavor and form. "Better" chais are often double or triple the Stash price and come with only a slightly better flavor. For instance, you have Revolution's Organic White Chai. Which is yummy, but not in the same price range despite being in the same relative taste range.
Being a fan of Stash, and having the word "organic" appeal to me, I ordered an 80ct box of their Organic (Black & Green) chai. The price is about 15 dollars (I seem to remember paying less at time of actual order, but that is the current price on the product's website). The description says "Blend of black and green teas and organic spices - sweet cinnamon, pungent ginger and sharp clove. Delicious plain or with milk and sugar." I like clove and I like ginger and cinnamon. Seems like a good simple mix.
Being American, my first instinct is to dairy up a Chai product. For the review, though, I felt it was best to leave this one plain for now. Creamer, milk, flavorings. I want to review the tea itself.
Aroma is good. I don't pick out any ginger and what clove is in the smell is masked by the cinnamon, but it is pleasant. Taste is good. I steeped four bags in four cups of water for about five minutes. Unsweetened and unmilked, I get a slight "tang" off one of the spices but the tea is unbitter, strong bodied and flavorful. The tea is Assam, though not quite as strong as I like Assam to be. Still strong enough to count.
Aftertaste is fair. One of the spices sticks around slightly after the others have gone. Letting the second cup cool, the flavor goes slightly towards the bitter but still resists.
Overall, an excellent mixture that works well for it's price (ordered at 80ct, it is not quite $0.20 per bag. Ordered loose, you can get 100g for $7.50). I think this will stand as my standard chai for now. I am not a huge chai drinker, but it is good to have a good blend around.
My rating is a Good.
Written by W Doug Bolden
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