Saturday, July 7, 2007

Masala Chai (Rishi Tea)

Tea: Masala Chai, Organic FTC
Origin: Rishi Blend
Year: ? (I'm guessing 2006)
Vendor: Rishi Tea
Price: 8.99/4oz tin or $32/lb.

Chai was my very first tea, and my favorite for some time, as I progressed from the syrup-y crap served at Starbucks to the much better and more authentic loose leaf versions. I tried every kind of chai I could get my hands own, looking for the perfect blend. Now I don't know if Rishi's Masala Chai is perfect, but it is mighty fine.

Chai is the word for tea through out South Asia, East Africa, and the Middle East, and masala translates to spice. Masala chai is traditionally a blend of strong black tea, like Assam, and spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, peppercorns, star anise, and cloves. It can also be made with tissanes like rooibos or yerba mate.

This is a traditional blend, using cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and black pepper. The tea leaves are a dian hong from Xishuangbanna, harvested from ancient tea trees.

I used these instructions on Traditional Style Chai. It really helps to have a sauce pan with a spout, like the one pictured, or it is easy to make a mess when straining. I bought this one at Target for about $15. I got to use it once before my wife comandeered it for cooking; now she lets me use it every second Tuesday or so. The straining holes on the lid were too big, thus the ghetofied People's brew basket with a chopstick stuck through it.

For just me, I cut the recipe in half, using 2 tbsp of tea, 3/4 cup water, and 1/2 cup milk. I get better results with whole milk, but of course you can use anything, though I have found that it isn't as good with soy milk. Toss it all in a sauce pan, brink to a boil--be careful not to let it over boil, and let simmer for five minutes, sweeten to taste (2 tsp of sugar is enough, in my opinion).

Overall I give it a 4. Quite tasty and creamy, you can actually taste the nuanced spices, something you can't do with powdered or liquid concentrates. The only negative thing I can say about it, is it could use more pepper; however, I am a pepper fiend, so take what I am saying with a grain of salt.

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