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Tonight I improvised a masala chai by steeping Upton Tea Import’s Orange Spice Imperial tea in a teapot, poring the liquor into a saucepan with 2% milk and pure cane sugar, and bringing the mixture to a boil.

Orange Spice Imperial tea according to Upton’s website is “generously scented black tea, with cinnamon, orange peel, vanilla bean, and a bit of clove.” While this tea does not make an authentic Indian masala chai insofar as the ingredients are not quite right, it does make for a delicious treat. I am debating on whether to try Upton’s Chai Spice Tea or just stick with this nicely flavored blend. As some of you know, Upton provides great deals on samples – for as low as $1.00 – so there is no reason for me not to try the Chai Spice. Look here for a comparison over the next couple of months.

Do you want to know all there is to know about masala chai? Read Wikipedia’s entry on the subject here.

I am always looking for new ways to make chai, and even different blends. Let me know your favorites.

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Tonight I review the festive Christmas Tea from Upton Tea Imports. Christmas Tea, or Mélange Noël, is a blend of black tea with cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and cardamom. It is decorated with orange peel, rose petals and almond pieces.

Upon smelling this tea, the first thing that came to mind was potpourri. The taste, however, was not as artificial as the smell. For me, the flavor of cloves really came out in my first brew of this tea. As described above, Mélange Noël is extremely spice heavy, but this adds to the drinking pleasure. It reminded me of a lactose-free chai.

I drank my tea with a slice of homemade banana bread courtesy of the boyfriend. It was a great combination. I especially enjoyed dipping the banana bread in the tea.

Tea for my evening bus ride:

gingerbread tea from Tealuxe (0 Brattle Street, Cambridge)

Description from Tealuxe:
Ceylon Black tea flavored with bits of ginger, cinnamon, and orange.

This tea, while good, was not anything I have not tasted before. It reminded me of different masala chai I have tried. Perhaps it was the bits of ginger and cinnamon that gave me this sense. This is my first experience with Ceylon, or Sri Lankan, black tea, and I can say that I could not make out any distinguishing characteristics; I will have to try different varieties of Ceylon tea, perhaps one that has not been flavored. Steeping time on this blend was a scant two minutes. I added whole milk and honey. Next time I am craving chai I will reach for this cuppa, because it tastes similar and it’s cheaper.

Dinner tea:

green oolong from Dado Tea (50 Church Street, Cambridge)

I thought it was about time I tried a green oolong. This was a much milder flavor that what I have experienced with other oolongs; however, I am not overly familiar with floral oolongs. The leaves were full like the body of this tea. Dado offers premium quality tea at excellent prices ($2.25-2.50/16 oz.). Now that it is warming up here in New England, I will have to start experimenting with their iced teas, but I will be staying away from their iced chai. While their hot chai is top notch, the iced chai tastes too water laden.

Lunch tea:

tra que chai from Tealuxe (0 Brattle Street, Cambridge)

Description from Tealuxe’s web site:
The principal ingredient in this Chai is cinnamon imported from Vietnam A blend of nutmeg, clove and black teas round out this brew. Usually served with 1/3 steamed milk.

Cinnamon strong. It was really hard to make out any of the other flavors in this tea other than the cinnamon. I am learning that I do not like cinnamon in my beverages. I asked for masala chai, but they were out.

I drank my chai with an almond biscotti: muy excelente.

Today, Jason and I visited Whittard of Chelsea on Newbury Street in Boston. We found that they were offering tastings, so Jason and I gladly drank what they provided us: cinnamon chai and organic rooibos. Neither one of us were very impressed by the rooibos. I felt that it had a very weak impression of a tea. (i.e. It was a rather bland tea.) But I didn’t mind the chai. I was not so wowed by it that I bought a bag, but I did not think it was the worst thing I had ever tried. My curiosity was piqued by the smelling of chocolate chai. Have any of you tried this chai? Jason and I mostly went to Whittard to look for a decaffeinated black tea for Jason’s grandmother for her birthday, which is not until August but I like to get an early start. I was not overly impressed by the selection at the store, but the customer service was excellent. Like I say/said in a previous post, I think I will just stick with Upton Tea Imports and other online tea stores.

Lunch tea: 

pumpkin spice chai from Tealuxe (0 Brattle Street, Cambridge)
Made with one-third steamed whole milk

Description:
An enticing new chai flavored with pumpkin, vanilla and spicey herbs with a black tea base. The pumpkin is perfectly suited for steamed milk and honey.

Delicious! I am a chai fan, so it is no surprise that I like this combination. Very different flavor than what you get from Starbucks. I didn’t let my tea steep for the full five minutes: I was in a bit of a hurry. So it could have been a bolder taste. You really taste the tea in this version versus the creamy variety offered by the Seattle company.