By cafekopi42667224, Aug 6 2017 05:09AM
From working at coffee houses in the ‘90s, I recall the focus was still on espresso beverages with very little mind paid to tea or other specialty drinks. A neighboring café introduced me to chai in 1994 and I was hooked. Two chais a day is definitely a habit. They poured Oregon Chai™ concentrate from an aseptic box, one of the first known companies to produce spiced chai to the public. I sprinkled a little nutmeg on the foam and it was heavenly. Tastes like the holidays, as we used to say.
At Kopi our tea vendor offered chai in bags and eventually loose tea chai. We began to fiddle with recipes to find the perfect balance of spice and sweet. This predated the advent of latte art and “microfoam,” so we only needed to tweak our ratios. Once satisfied, we had the first chai latte in town (1997?) and watched the trend grow around us.
Today, cafés all over serve a chai either from concentrate (Oregon Chai, Big Train, Pacific, Tazo, etc.), a flavored powder, or loose leaf like ours. The predominant flavor of the Kopi chai is cinnamon, and customers swear by it. I’ve had chai blends that steer towards cardamom or coriander (my favorite), but we could never switch, for fear of rioting. Our recipe has changed very little over 20 years. Not only are the ingredients and proportions vital, but also the order it’s prepared. If the water isn’t hot enough for the tea to steep, you’re just adding the other flavors to a weak product. The recipe is several steps, a bit tedious, but we make so many throughout the day that it is second nature and quick.
In addition to the conventional hot chai tea latte, we have an iced version that we prepare ahead and chill, and also a Frozen Chai with some extra ingredients for richness and depth. Of course, the chai has spawned a whole category of other tea lattes because you can honestly use almost any tea with the same formula. The Green Tea latte is very popular now, and before that we had the Yerba Maté latte and Red Tea latte (using Rooibos, or red bush tea). We are getting requests for the London Fog (earl grey tea latte) and Russian Lullaby (smoky Russian Caravan tea latte), and I expect that Jasmine and Chamomile teas will join the pack when the weather gets chilly again.
Once considered an autumn seasonal drink, you don’t have to wait till fall to enjoy the “Pumpkin Pie in a cup” comfort of our spiced Chai Latte, because we offer it all year long.