Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: The Tao of Tea
Chai is an integral part of life in India and simply translates to ‘Tea’ in Hindi. Calling it ‘Chai tea’ is considered redundant. In India, ‘Chaiwallahs’ (tea vendors) are present at street corners brewing basic black tea with spices.
500 Mile Chai
The tale of ‘500 Mile Chai’ originates from the many late night truck drivers stopping at small Chai stands ‘Dhabas’ on the highway and asking for really strong, sweet Chai to help them drive long distances (in a humorous tone – “for another 500 miles”).
This is a good chai – and it is quite different from many other chai blends that I have tried. In many other blends, it seems as though the emphasis is on the spices, and it can be sometimes difficult to discern the flavor of the tea base amid the stronghold of the spices.
But here, the black tea base is strong and solid! There is some real power to this black tea. I suspect it is an Assam due to its malty tone, and to the fact that when it is steeped too long, it gets just a little too bitter (care to guess how I know that?)
When steeped for the right amount of time, however, this is a delicious tea. I found that 3 to 3 1/2 minutes is just right for me. When I got to four, the tea verged upon bitterness, but at 3 1/2 the tea tasted just perfect. I did not steep this using the chai “stovetop” method (steeping in simmering milk on the stove) because as I’ve attested to in previous reviews, I try to avoid this method whenever possible. Too messy!
So, instead, I steeped for 3 1/2 minutes in boiling water. I tried this latte style (steeping at a stronger concentration and serving with steamed milk) and without the milk, and while I prefer it latte, it is quite delicious either way. I do recommend a little honey or agave nectar though to help bring out the richness of the spices.
The flavor of the cup is bold and well-spiced. Invigorating! The blend of spices is well-balanced. In some blends, the ginger or cinnamon is overwhelming and can cancel out some of the notes of the cardamom and cloves, but here, each one of these spices is nicely represented without one stealing the show.
This is DEFINITELY strong enough to keep you going another 500 miles!