I fell in love with chai in Tokyo and was happy to discover David Rio's Tiger chai mix earlier this month. My canister of Tiger chai ran out this week, so I decided to try a homemade version in hopes of saving both money and trips to Carmel to feed my addiction.
I modified a well-reviewed recipe I found online with decent success. The result is less sweet than the Tiger mix and has a more pronounced tea flavor. The spices differ but are each good in their own way. The homemade mix is more spicy while the Tiger chai has a sweet flavor akin to gingerbread. The Tiger chai also has a floral note that the homemade mix lacks. My hunch is that this comes from the honey granules listed in the ingredients. If I can track some down, they would add a nice layer of flavor to the homemade version.
My verdict? It's a matter of taste. I prefer the spicier homemade mix, but those looking for a "dessert-like" flavor should stick with the Tiger chai. The upfront cost of the homemade version is high due to the spices (especially the cardamom!), but in the long run it should be considerably cheaper.
Homemade instant chai mix
1.5 c vanilla sugar (see below for instructions)
1 c nonfat dry milk
1 c powdered non-dairy creamer
1.5 c unsweetened instant tea
2 t ginger
2 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1 t allspice
3/4 t clove
3/4 t cardamom
1/4 t white pepper
To make vanilla sugar: Add 2 t vanilla extract to sugar. Stir well to incorporate. Let dry and break up any clumps before continuing with the recipe.
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Transfer in batches to a food processor and grind to a fine powder.
For hot chai: Add 3 T mix to 8 oz hot milk.
For iced chai: Heat 2 oz milk. Add 3 T mix and stir to dissolve. Pour over ice and add 4 oz cold milk.