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Sunday, June 28, 2009


I've developed a taste for chai in the last few years. It's a great blend of flavors, and every chai is a bit different. Of course, it's actually somewhat difficult to get good chai in the U.S. The chai lattes at Starbucks and most other coffee shops are made from powder or concentrate, and are usually way too sweet and not very flavorful or spicy. I've tried it at a few restaurants (some of them Indian), and it's usually pretty good, but not great. Strangely, the best chai I've had is at Doughnut Plant in New York. (Between the best doughnuts and best chai, the place is basically the center of my universe.) The best chai I've had in DC is at Teaism, though it's a bit heavier on anise than I prefer. They sell packages of their blend so that you can make it at home, which is nice.

But I have chai at work every afternoon, and I have thus far deemed using loose tea too labor-intensive for a tea break. So a focus of my chai exploration has been identifying the best chai teabags. I've tried a bunch of brands, including Bigelow, Good Earth, Twinings, Stash, and Tazo. They're mostly pretty unsatisfying, and because I'm allergic to artificial cinnamon flavor (weird, I know), I can tell you that Good Earth and Stash both use artificial cinnamon flavor, even though it's ambiguously identified on the label. But Celestial Seasonings chai, I'm happy to report, is really good. It's not like a real cup of long-simmered chai, of course, but it's great for a tea bag.

This is on my mind because the Celestial Seasonings chai has mysteriously disappeared from the local grocery stores, making me very grumpy. I bought some Numi brand chai from Whole Foods last week (for more than twice the cost), and it's decent, but doesn't make a very strong cup of tea. I may have to mail order...

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