There’s a new kid around town, Chai Diaries. We have a lot in common, especially when it comes to tea. Like how we both value not just the sensory experience of drinking a hot cup, but the part of it that touches something deeper.
There are always, always stories behind tea. They begin, play out, and begin again with every sip. A continuous narra-tea-ve, if you will.
With such an irresistible message, Chai Diaries was doing its best to seduce me. But words can only go so far.
This Masala Chai is their signature puppy. In the bag, oh god, rich and pungent. Every note of the aroma–cinnamon, green cardamom, ginger, and vanilla, according to the ingredients list–is as raucous as the streets of Mumbai, fiercely proud of who it is and what it represents. Already, Chai Diaries is starting off strong.
Unfortunately, the brewing instructions lead to oversteepage. It says 5-7 minutes, and erring on the side of 7 led to a disappointing cup of Nope, Does Not Work. Luckily, it’s forgiving enough that the tea wasn’t mouth-wrenchingly horrible–just monosyllabic. With such a letdown for what seemed to be a vivacious, promising tea, it had to be re-tried. Everyone deserves a second chance. Even your crazy ex. (Though only one second chance, do you hear me? Not two. Not three. Just one. Otherwise it’s your own dang fault.)
The good news is that shorter infusions turn out much better. What’s remarkable about this chai is that each of the spices presents its own voice, yet none is louder than the rest. They are all in complete harmony–which is pretty impressive in a tea. Chais in particular tend to rely on one note to carry the rest of the bunch. Like with Uniq Teas, it was cardamom running the show. But here, the melody is perfectly even.
The bad news is that too much harmony can be boring. If you like your chais kicking like a mule, then skip this one.
You see, the vanilla is the culprit for your disappointment. It’s gathered up all the spices and basically shoved a pillow down their throats, forcing them to behave. Also, there is a certain spice missing, a critical part of Ayurvedic medicine that forms a traditional component of chai: clove. Were it included, it would be like adding a goth kid into the family–sure, it would throw off the harmony and pull the blend in a deeper, darker direction, but at least that would give it greater memorabili-tea. As it is, this chai is free to Mumbai Mambo into the sunset, if it only had the proper energy to do it. (Seriously, it begs for more ginger.)
It’s a passable breakfast or tea-date tea, but don’t get your hopes up for a wild ride. Pair with something that has more personali-tea, and mess around with flavored milks and sweetener. It could make a fine latte, a really fine one, so at least it has that to fall back on.
Now we have a tea from the opposite end of the spectrum: Ice Queen, a floral white.
The smell of the dry leaves can only be described as vine-sweet; must be the interplay of the grape with the jasmine. As a result, it’s very soothing, doesn’t set off any, “Congratulations, welcome to Waltz of the Flowers!” alarm bells. (After the heady silver needle from TeaVivre, this is a relief.) In fact, the steeped aroma is even better. For once, the actual white tea is getting to speak for itself! Usually with these floral whites, the jasmine essentially does this:
With this kind of setup that favors floral unenthusiasts (like this Snooty Tea Person), Chai Diaries may be able to re-tea-m itself.
And it does. The White Peony tells that jasmine to shut up and sit down in the back, where it has to wait for its turn like all the other flavors. I suspect this has much to do with the grapey-ness. White tea on its own isn’t usually a brave soul–thus, the addition of muscat serves as an attractive escort, holding the microphone steady for the white to get its bearings and speak. They make a wonderful duo. Moreover, the white gives credit where credit is due, allowing those fruity notes to share the spotlight while jasmine wavers in the background, going, “I’d like to just add a few words, if that’s ok.” This is actually a floral you could get excited about if you tried it cold-brewed, with each flavor emerging over the course of the long steep.
Please don’t pair this with anything, just enjoy on its own.
Overall, Chai Diaries has great potential. However, if their Masala Chai is the main image it wants to present to the world, then they should consider fixing that formula first. Mad props on the Ice Queen, though. I’ve never enjoyed a floral white this much before.