Hello fellow Chai Drinker!
If you're anything like me, you distrust the bromides the marketers come up with... nirvana in a cup, bliss, enjoyment with every sip. You know what I'm talking about; everyone claims their chai is the best. Is there any way to actually compare the different brands head to head?
Yes, we call it the chai Taste-O-Meter (TM) rating system! But who will do all these comparisons? The task fell to me. Great! I always loved chai. Then it began to arrive... box after box, bottle after bottle. I laid it all out and quickly saw I may have bitten off a little more than I could swallow... This job was a monster! After tasting four or five i started 2nd guessing myself, and it quickly deteriorated.
Then I had an idea. I needed a solid methodology. First I would stake out the leading "flagship" product of each brand using a simple rating scale:
- Low to high boldness; this was mostly about the tea flavor and sense of fullness in the mouth,
- Low to high spice rating; this was, obviously, how spicy that particular brew is, and
- Low to high sweetness; self explanatory and by far the easiest of the three.
Next, I moved on to each of the variations, and slowly a picture emerged that brought some sense to the disparate tastes of 100+ chai brews.
For comparison purposes, this is the Taste-O-Meter rating for a Starbucks chai latte: Relatively thin with mild boldness, low spice and high on the sweet scale.
Now some will argue that to reduce chai to 3 simple metrics doesn't really do justice to such a complex taste arena. And I agree. For example, to say something is "spicy" is a very general statement. Which spice? All of them? One of them? A preponderance of cinnamon gives a radically different taste than a preponderance of ginger for example.
And when it comes to taste, some tastes complement while others diminish or counterbalance one another. Is that vanilla one really sweeter? Or just more "vanilla-i-er" which I'm interpreting as "sweetness?" Hard to say.
Still, however, the 3 metric rating does serve a purpose. If you like one brand and see it's rating, it will at least be some basis of comparison to another brand. This way, if you want to try something new, it won't be a total shot in the dark.
Also, I go into even more depth of explanation underneath the Taste-O-Meter image. In some cases, quite deep... all the way to the bottom of the cup, in fact.
Certainly many among you may disagree with my interpretation. And in addition, try as they might, no small company can maintain perfect consistency when it comes to food products. That is, one batch will vary slightly to the next batch due to changing growing conditions, spices stronger or weaker, more or less aged, etc. There are just so many factors involved that a little fluctuation is to be expected.
So we welcome your voice! Please do post your impressions, good, bad or indifferent. Your feelings may not agree with mine. But if we all add our voices, over time the Taste-O-Meter rating system will evolve to help push the best chais to the "top of the heap."
In the mean time, I still have a few year's supply of chai to finish up. Something tells me it will be a labor of love. Happy Chai Tasting!
Troy the Chai-Direct Chai Tasting Guy