Valentine’s Day has come and gone. Mr. BooksandTea and I barely left the house that day because it was freezing outside, but if there’s one thing that tea is good for, that thing is providing comfort on cold days. So how did we celebrate Valentine’s Day? By having homemade blueberry pancakes for breakfast. And if there was one tea I wanted to try alongside these pancakes, it was the chai mix I bought from Chaiwala a few weeks ago at the Toronto Tea Festival. (Bonus! It turns out these guys live in Scarborough, just like I do! This makes me incredibly happy.)

This is the stuff:


See how it says “fresh ginger”  and “honey” on the label? That’s one of the neat things about this blend. It really does have fresh ginger and honey mixed in with the black tea, resulting in a kind of thick, crumbly mix. I think the honey is here both to add sweetness and to prevent the tea and spices from spoiling when in contact with the moistness of the fresh ginger.

And oh my god, there are a LOT of spices in this mix. In addition to the black tea and honey, there’s ginger, orange peel, cardamom, fennel, nutmeg, bay leaf, and a whole lot more. You can see how much spice is in this mix when you actually measure it out for brewing. It looks a bit like vegetable slaw, I think:


Chaiwalah’s chai smelled bracingly strong, spicy and pungent: so strong, in fact, that I had trouble picking out individual flavours. However, I’m pretty sure that I was able to sense cloves, fennel, bay leaf, nutmeg, and cinnamon. I will say it again: yowza, this tea smelled strong.

The instructions on the Chaiwala package said to mix 8 ounces of milk (preferably soy milk) with 8 grams of chai and then heat the milk on the stove on medium until it just reaches a boil. For all that effort, I decided to measure out about 16 grams of leaf for 16 ounces of milk and then make myself an extra big cup. I don’t buy soy milk, so I used plain old 1% cow’s milk instead.

And into the pot it went! Here’s what it looked like before I put the heat on:


I let the milk sit for a bit before heating it up because I was preparing the pancakes. (I used this blueberry pancake recipe, by the way. It was tasty, but the batter was much thicker than I expected.)

Once I made some headway on the pancakes, I turned the stove on, put it on medium heat, and let the tea sit until it reached a boil. This took about 10 minutes. And voila, here’s the boiling tea:


I strained it into a mug, finished cooking the pancakes, got some kiwi to go with the pancakes, and had a deliciously regal breakfast with my husband. Since he doesn’t like tea, I had this concoction all to myself. Look at this and tell me you’re not jealous:


This tea was super strong. However, I couldn’t taste much in the way of black tea at all: the strongest flavours were of ginger, fennel, cloves, and bay leaf. (For some reason, the bay leaf was particularly prominent in my cup.) Part of me wonders if this is because I used cow milk instead of soy, or because I let the tea sit in the milk for several minutes before putting it on the boil. There’s plenty of room to experiment, however: I’ve used only about 1/4 of the package from Chaiwala, and because of the way it’s mixed (tea, honey, and fresh spices), I need to use it up quickly before it goes bad.