Lately it feels like I’ve been on a flavoured tea kick, and my visit to the Toronto Tea Festival in late January pushed that into higher gear. When I was there, I bought 5 separate flavoured blends from T by Daniel, a company based in Brampton. I remember at last year’s tea festival, friends of mine oohed and aahed over their blends, so I resolved not to throw away my shot this year. So today’s review is of their Chai Noir blend.
Chai Noir is a masala chai with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, and some rather unexpected ingredients: hazelnut, almond, macadamia nuts, and cactus blossoms.
The dry leaf itself looks different from other chais, because the spices definitely dominate the blend visually. My guess is that, at most, only half of the blend is black tea, with the other half being cardamom pods, flower petals, cloves, cinnamon pieces, and nuts.
The weird thing is that despite the label not listing ginger as an ingredient, I swear I can smell it in the blend. I’m pretty sure I can even see a few dried pieces of ginger in the mix — I see at least one chunk of something that looks stringy and somewhat beige. There are a few other ingredients in the mix that I can’t identify, however. I’m not sure what a cactus blossom looks like, but there are a few pieces in the blend that look like dried fruit.
Despite my inability to identify every ingredient, the aroma of the dried leaf is pretty awesome. I can smell the usual suspects — cinnamon, cloves, cardamom — but beyond that, there’s a richness and roundness and depth to the scent of Chai Noir that I find pretty enthralling.
Is it the hazelnuts? The vanilla? The macadamia nuts? Whatever it is, it’s kind of oily, but it adds a surprising amount of body and smoothness to the aroma.
I took 1 big teaspoon of the blend and steeped it in just-boiled water for 2-3 minutes — I wasn’t really keeping count. However, because I’m a goof, I used a mug with an apple-green interior, making it much harder to actually guess the true colour of the resulting brew.
That was a goof because judging by the taste, I should have let the tea steep for at least a minute longer. While the flavour was very smooth and well-balanced, it felt faint. Not bold at all. And if there’s something I expect from a chai blend, it’s to wallop me over the head with flavour.
Overall, the roundness and depth and oiliness of the aroma was true to the flavour of the brewed tea, but it just didn’t feel there enough. Either more brewing time or more leaf is warranted.