When I began putting together recipes for a retail concept, a “perfect” chai latte was high on the priority list. At the time, chai was “hot” and, as I began to sample various chai concentrates on the market, I became convinced that none of them was what I was looking for. They were either too sweet, too spicy, or had too much of one spice. Reviews and articles I read on various chais said the same thing. There seemed to be a search for hitting that “sweet spot” that would make any chai lover go into a state of bliss when they found it.
A few years ago, there was a story of an Indian gentleman in the Half Moon Bay area of Northern California who served a chai so incredible people protested vehemently when a chain coffee retailer (not Starbucks) planned to take over his small space. I never got to taste that chai, but that’s the kind of chai I was seeking for a retail concept. And the journey continued.
My goal in this post, in addition to telling my own chai story, is to simply ask others the question: “Have you found your ‘perfect’ chai latte and what is it like?” I was still tweaking ours the day we opened our store last July, and continue to tweak, although what we have now absolutely delights customers. Ours is a “moderately spicy” chai with vanilla overtones and one that, when steamed soy milk (my preference) is added, becomes a café au lait-colored, slightly sweet, balanced spicy liquid that makes me go “ahhhhh”…and want more and more and more. Personally, I don’t believe any chai concentrate or powder bought off the shelf can match it…not even close. That is our “house chai”.
A customer inspired our other chai recipes by asking about putting some coconut flavor in her chai. I knew the house chai would not work, so grabbed our loose-leaf, very spicy chai black tea, brewed a shot, added some very delicate coconut syrup, combined with steamed soy milk and..voila! The customer was thrilled and it is now a very popular item on our menu. With Fall upon us, I also use that particular loose-leaf chai as the start of our Pumpkin Spice chai latte.
As stated previously, my preference for chai latte is to use soy milk, and not just any soy milk. I use only Soy Silk (they’ll love me if they read this) and the plain one, not vanilla. Some customers just won’t drink soy for whatever reason, but I believe the taste of a chai latte with soy is unmatched, because soy seems to impart a creaminess that milk does not. I also like to dust the top of the beverage (or the whipped cream) lightly with cinnamon.
Like its “brother” – the elusive “perfect” espresso mocha latte – the “perfect” chai latte is an individual quest. I believe I’ve found the Shangri La that took me years to reach and I hope, in your quest, you will be successful in doing the same. The results are definitely worth the journey. Now, if there was just a zero-calorie option that tasted even close. Happy traveling!
Photo “Chai 3” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License to the photographer “yancy9” and is being posted unaltered (source)
Photo “mercian coconut” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License to the photographer Robert Couse-Baker and is being posted unaltered (source)