Posts Tagged ‘chai’

Can I get a Chai please?

This post was written by Bruce Thurlow, normally he writes about the Black Keys or about nothing in particular over at Mr Dingleberry.

For some people a basic act of survival is having a cup of coffee each morning. Especially after a big night out. And it becomes more of an act of survival when that coffee does not meet expectations. Being in a rush at home and swallowing a couple of tar-like gulps of instant coffee with not so hot water ain’t fun. Just like coffee, bad tea comes in many shapes and sizes. More so when you’re paying for it. Or for that matter when you are offered a cuppa from a work colleague or house mate and there’s nowhere to hide and refuse.

When I once lived in a share house and was interviewing prospective house mates, I didn’t bother with the basic “Are you employed?” questions. I went straight to, “How do you make a cup of tea?”.  Having someone demonstrate making a too-milky cuppa with the tea bag still immersed with the string dangling limp over the rim of the cup is as unsatisfying as any experience I know. And I’ve had a few.

Recently I’ve been drinking a lot of tea, mainly in cafes between job interviews. Where once I could put up with with a tea bag of English Breakfast in a pot, now days I’m an unrepentant Chai drinker. More of a Chai snob actually. Chai, of course, roughly translates as ‘tea’ in Iran, India and Turkey and surrounding countries, invariably the spiced or masala milk tea style. This is my weakness – that sweet/spiced aromatic lure of some place Other than where you are now that invades your consciousness. I traveled India some years ago and the hollah of tea for sale from the Chai Wallah (seller) at train stations was a sweet greeting for the ears. The Wallah would tilt the large urn of spiced masala tea strapped on his back and pour the tea into a small clay cup which you would throw away after drinking from it. I never had a bad cup.

Some years later, the Chai craze hit the Western world and it became a plague on otherwise respectable cafes driven by a consumer who thought they tasted something “new” and “original”. Something instant coffee drinkers also said about “granulated coffee” many moons ago. Chai for profit-taking cafes can simply mean a rough jumble of tea, sugar and a smattering of “flavours” in a powdered form.  It’s the stuff you drink at Starbucks (or once did before they defaulted on any consumer credibility they once held). You know when you drink it; “powdered” tea will never be the real deal.

Yesterday, however, I saw how it could and should be done. I had a Chai at the cafe Journal and upon a functional serving plate came: a pot of hot milk and divine leaf Chai (not too spicy, not too sweet), a spare pot of hot milk to refill the tea pot, a small amount of honey on the side, a tall glass with long spoon, and a leaf strainer with drip tray. I got three and a half full cups of Chai for $4.00.  The previous day I paid $6.00 for one glass at Soul Mama that was more hot milk with honey than any semblance of spiced tea. No refills. Lest we forget.

So, next time you consider a coffee for your morning fix, rejoice in a Chai for that sorry head of yours.