Inside Look into Mom's Chai
Getting a perfect cup of Mom’s Chai required a lot of time in the Tea Lab.
Our goal was to find the perfect balance between the spice, sweet, and cream with the mellowness of the tea. But getting there was not easy. We tried all sorts of teas with spice blends and mixtures and concoctions with various sugars from all over the world. I can’t begin to tell you how many subpar cups of tea we have drunk over the last year. But, after much tinkering, we have found our perfect recipe.
For the Mom’s Chai, we started at the very beginning: finding the correct tea leaves. After many trials, we found that Assam Tea gives the perfect base for our recipe. We wanted to find a tea that gives a certain level of maltiness and smokiness that can act as a base for the chai without overpowering the cream from the milk. While traditional chai generally uses an Orange Pekoe, we found that Assam actually gives a milder base with the same malt. The whole leaf Assam helps control that flavor over a chopped up leaf during the boiling process as well.
After finding the tea base, we needed to find a balanced spice blend. Indian chai has no one correct recipe and each household makes it how they enjoy it. For us, chai needed to give a spice kick but not control the palette. We tried using various forms of ginger and black pepper but we found them to be very strong and dominating, opting to leave them out.
The first spice we incorporated is cardamom. Cardamom has a strong but sweet taste at the right amounts. More importantly, cardamom has an aroma that lifts the entire drink. We then used cloves, occasionally used in chai spice in traditional chai. Cloves bring a bitterness to the tea that actually adds to the flavor punch of the drink. We then brought in cinnamon and nutmeg, less commonly used in chai traditionally. Cinnamon has a very sweet flavor while nutmeg has a milder pepper-like taste.
Finding the balance took a while, but the blend of the four spices adds the right amount of spicy kick and tingly after taste from the drink without ever being too strong that the spice controls the drink.
Last, we needed to balance the entire tea with the right amount of cream. We use 2% milk, which gives the right amount of fat to balance the spice from the tea. While we found that all the alternative milks also work in their own way, 2% milk was our favorite. Our portion from milk to tea is to really balance out the strength of the tea and spice.
The cool thing about the recipe is really that we tried to make it work for both hot and cold. Normally, iced versions of a drink are milky since the ice will dilute the drink over time while hot versions of chai retain strong after tastes. However, this recipe’s balance between the cream and spice works iced and hot.
Our chai recipe, and chai in general, is unique from other teas in that it can be modified to your liking. Like us, you can also explore various proportions and recipes with the Mom’s Chai kit.