I tried chai for the first time in Tokyo of all places. Japanese food and I weren't getting along very well, so I decided that an Indian dinner at Maharaja would be a nice change of pace (actually that getting through a meal without feeling sick would be a nice change of pace, but that's another story). The meal was good, but the highlight was the cup of chai at the end. I was instantly in love with the steaming sweet and spicy drink and vowed to make some when I returned to the States.
There were so many recipes out there that I didn't know where to begin. It looked like the mixes were generally not well received, except for those by David Rio of San Francisco. I finally tracked some down at the Cost Plus World Market in Carmel. Four flavors were available - Elephant Vanilla, Tiger Spice, Orca Spice and Flamingo Vanilla. I ruled out the last two because they contain Splenda and settled on the Tiger Spice for no better reason than the name pleased me.
The website describes the drink as having a "traditional masala chai flavor of cinnamon, clove, cardamom, and ginger with black tea." The reviews generally describe it as being less sweet than the Elephant Vanilla. There are three recipes on the canister - one for hot chai, one for chai on ice, and one for a chai ice blend. I started with the traditional hot chai made with milk tonight but will try a cold version tomorrow.
The flavor was quite sweet and well spiced. It's a bit like drinking gingerbread if you can imagine that. I don't think I would be a fan of the sweeter Elephant Vanilla version. My one small complaint is that I wish the Tiger Spice were slightly less sweet and more spicy. Regardless, the comforting flavor and creamy texture make it a great way to warm up on a cold day. That it's as quick and simple as heating up milk and stirring in a few tablespoons of the mix is an added bonus. Until I find a recipe for homemade chai that catches my fancy, I expect to going through many canisters of Tiger Spice. Now I need to find a teacup worthy of my new addiction.