Yesterday, I latte-fied Numi Organic Tea’s Rooibos Masala Chai. Today I want to talk more about what “masala chai” means and tell you a bit about some of the masala and other blended chais that I have tried recently.
Masala Chai Defined
First of all, “chai” just means “tea” in much of the world. So it follows that “chai tea latte” is redundant, so when you’re ordering from your favorite local tea shop, just say “chai latte.”
“Masala” is just “spice” in Hindi and refers to any number of spice mixtures used in Indian cooking. In the tea world, masala connotes a particular flavour profile–the combination of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove, among others. There’s no standard recipe for masala, so every family has their own, along with their own chai brewing methods. Some folks add anise seed, peppercorns, or saffron to their chai masala as well. Since there’s no standard, mixes are made to individual or family tastes. I’ve made my own mix that I will share with you tomorrow.
In the meantime, today we’re going to test a few premade chai blends. None of the following are alike enough to really compare to one another, so they’re just being reviewed on their own merits:
While I tend to find Twinings teas mild and enjoyable, this one misses the mark. I purchased this tea accidentally and curiosity made me open rather than return the box. The “naturally & artificially flavoured” line should have tipped me off that this wasn’t going to be my new favourite tea. It tries really hard to capture the classic masala spices, but it just tastes synthetic. I would not recommend this masala chai. As usual, real ingredients are the best ingredients.
Numi’s Rooibos Chai (Masala Rooibos)
Numi Organic Tea always uses only real fruits, flowers, and spices, and never adds artificial (or even “natural”) flavours or fragrances. The result is a better tasting, naturally warm and inviting cup of masala rooibos that can be enjoyed before bed.
Unknown–Fair trade chai masala (likely from Nepal)
I purchased this little wicker box of chai from Sojourns Fair Trade‘s first location years ago. Unfortunately these last two bags didn’t result in a great cup (why did I save these so long?!), but that’s because, yeah, tea goes stale. However, when first purchased, this was the best masala chai I’d ever made at home. Sojourns no longer carries this particular tea, so you can’t try it for yourself, but I visited the shop to check out what was new.
On my recent return to Sojourns, I was intrigued by Rishi’s decorated emerald tins, and while a masala chai variety was available, since I recently made my own masala mix, I thought I’d try something different. I was interested in this particular chai blend since it is made from pu-erh (which, you’ll remember, is fermented). This blend doesn’t employ the piquant masala blend that Indian chai masalas do (such as in the previous examples). Instead, this luxurious dessert tea consists of a perfect blend of vanilla bean, cinnamon, mint, and chocolate. It also contains licorice root! After tasting this today, I’m pretty sure this is my favourite tea. It is indeed, as the tin suggests, “unique,” “decadent,” and “smooth.” The chocolate really comes through immediately, not like the delayed chocolatization of a previously tried blend. I made it exactly as suggested and was happily sipping deliciousness in a matter of minutes. Perfection! Read more about the company’s Direct Trade and organic products here.
Is there premade flavour blend you really like? Let me know in the comments!
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