The holidays are coming up, which means that it’s time for warm, comforting, spicy teas. And today’s tea, Vanilla Chai from Zen Tea, is a good example. I bought a sample of this from Zen Tea all the way back in February/March, and now that the cold weather has returned, this tea made its way into my cup.
This vanilla chai contains black tea, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla pieces, ginger, cloves, black pepper, natural flavouring. The black tea base used here looks smaller and more cut-up than traditional loose-leaf tea, but larger and more intact than a CTC (crush-tear-curl) tea. Bits of clove, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom are visible among the leaves, giving the leaf a kind of jaunty, festive look.
Up close, the dry tea smells very rich and spiced, but the dominant scents are of ginger and cinnamon. I smell hardly any vanilla at all, and in fact can’t distinguish any pieces of vanilla pod in the dry leaf.
The instructions said to boil the leaf gently for a few minutes then add milk bit by bit – but frankly, that’s far too labour-intensive for me. So I just did the usual method of letting the leaf sit in hot water for a few minutes. After 3-4 minutes, the resulting brew was a rich red-brown colour, warm and welcoming.
I had it straight with no sugar or milk. Overall, this vanilla chai is very balanced and smooth, with no astringency. While I could taste a variety of spices, mostly ginger and cinnamon, I couldn’t taste very much vanilla at all. Vanilla showed up only at the end of the sip, in the back of my sinuses.
So much for vanilla chai, huh? Lots of chai, but vanilla, not so much.