“Look, they have chai”, observed Teaist Junior, as we ordered in our local branch of Nordic coffee chain Espresso House.
“Chai” here means an instant tea mix, with added spices and milk powder.
“Hmmmmmm”, I replied, with an intonation that clearly communicated a sceptical attitude as to the suitability of said product vis-à-vis a place in my stash.
“Tea snob”, she muttered.
Now, to someone from Northern England proud of their working class roots, an accusation of snobbery is a most terrible slur. My hackles were insta-raised, and before I knew it an elephant bedecked 340g can of East India Spice was tacked onto our order. “I’ll snob you“, I thought to myself, before wondering, as Lisa Simpson did, just exactly what that means…
Back at home, I placed the can on our dining room table and stared at it. It seemed oddly out of place, a cargo-cult artefact from an alien civilisation, beamed down by a prankster extraterrestrial.
Mrs. Teaist reminded me of a time, at least seven years earlier, when we’d tried and more-or-less enjoyed a similar product that she’d picked up by chance once on her way home from work. It may or may not have been named after tigers, or something.
I countered that by reminding her that back then our tea drinking had been, all things considered, a significantly less sophisticated experience, one where Kusmi Prince Vladimir represented the ne plus ultra of leaf based culture.
I studied the packaging, looking for instructions.
I found a reference to 2 tablespoons, and equal quantities of hot water and milk, but curiously enough no mention of a relevant volume. Assuming they believed that most people would be making up the chai in a ubiquitous one-size-fits-all coffee/tea mug, I removed the plastic lid and popped the foil seal.
I was greeted by the sight of an off-white powder that smelled predominantly of spices and faintly of milk…
I measured out just over half a mug’s worth of milk, placed it in a suitable container, and, heaven help me, began to warm it in the microwave on medium-high. In my defence, I must state that we don’t have a small pan suitable for heating milk, so radar love it had to be.
I put a similar amount of water into a kettle, and thanks to the power and majesty that is induction heating it was ready in a trice.
After about 90 seconds in the zap-cube the milk was hot but not boiling, and more importantly, not scalded. I poured the milk back into the mug, and spooned in 2 heaped tablespoons of the chai powder. Stirring with one hand, I then topped up the mug with the hot water with the other.
My first impression was that it was not, as I had feared, overly milky. The tea flavour was subtle and balanced, the sweetness factor wasn’t out of control, and the spice level was a little lower than I would have liked maybe, but was still nevertheless more than capable of giving the tongue a wee tickle.
To my great surprise I actually found myself thinking “not bad at all…“.
I can see how it might work if you came home on a wet, cold, dark, miserable night and wanted something hot and comforting that required neither a lot of time nor effort to prepare.
I can’t in all honesty see me weeping and wailing when it’s all gone, demanding the shop open up now and sell me more, dagnabbit, but on the other hand I can easily see us finishing it off before it goes out of date.
Summing up – before I put the kettle on I couldn’t see myself liking this at all, but can proclaim, hand on heart, that I was pleasantly surprised here.
More importantly, perhaps, I’ve successfully knocked back an accusation of tea snobbery. Having said that, Teaist Jr. returned home from a shopping trip yesterday with tales of having found a fruit-flavoured bottled green tea, so perhaps I’m not entirely out of the woods yet on that score.
Watch this space, etc…