It’s been a huge 12 months for us, I can’t believe how quickly it’s flown by. Before we know it it’ll be November, one year since our life changing trip to India. We experienced it all, total culture shock and I loved every minute, from the mesmerising annual festival of lights (aka Diwali), to the sensory overload of the spice markets of Delhi, the magic of the Taj, and waking each morning to the sound of morning prayer echoing through the mountains in Rishikesh. That’s not to mention sipping freshly brewed masala chai as we sat at dawn (laughing through chattering teeth) watching the sun rise over the Himalayas. Just epic.
India has done a lot for us this year, and that’s a story I plan to tell in greater detail soon, but for the moment I just want to take a minute to appreciate my new love for Chai. We spent just shy of 3 weeks in India, and in that time ate zero meat & zero coffee. I wasn’t sure how I’d cope but that’s where the chai comes in. It’s fair to say that while I’ll probs never fully kick the coffee habit, chai is my new partner in crime.
Since coming back from India I’ve been enjoying a new mission to find the best brewed chai (keeping in mind that a chai latte, generally made with a sweetened powder, is not the same as brewed chai made from tea & whole spices) and while there’s a few around town, my fav is TeaEsk, made locally by tea master Melissa Di Marco, and perfectly brewed by the @milkandcocoffee team at The Woolshed. I stole 5 mins of Melissa’s time recently to ask her about her passion for Tea & to share the hot tip on how to brew an epic chai.
How did you become so passionate about tea?
About four years ago when I started working at a tea shop. I was learning about all the different types of tea, and I was in total awe from the point that Oolong tea was mentioned. I was fascinated that there were so many varieties of tea that my curiosity drew me in, to which I immersed myself in knowing more about this old
world beverage. I always say things happen for a reason at particular times in life and I truly believe that finding that job in the tea shop was just meant to be for me. I feel blessed that I was able to find passion in a career path once again and my journey with tea has been incredible. It brings me a world of happiness!
What’s the trick to brewing the perfect chai?
When making a traditional chai with milk, always brew your Chai in boiling water first, this allows a better and more potent release of flavours from the spices and the tea. And honey is a must!!
What’s in your chai that makes it so damn good!?
Balance. For me balance in a chai is important where all the spices work in harmony together with no one spice overpowering the other. Using fresh whole organic spices is also key, and I think the crushed vanilla bean makes it pretty special! Let’s not forget love; I put a whole lot of it in when I’m blending.
Aside from drinking your own blend, where in the world have you had the best Chai?
I wish I could say India, but the truth is I have only been fortunate enough to enjoy Chai here in Australia… So is it biased to say, TeaEsk Chai?! I am excited for when the day comes for my travels to the Motherlands of India to have a cup of their delicious Masala Chai.
What other blends or variations should a chai lover try?
There really is nothing in comparison to a Chai; it’s quite a unique experience. I would suggest trying a herbal Chai for the chai fans out there. Some have rooibos, rose petals or citrus in the blend which make it very tasty. Herbal infusions don’t contain caffeine so you wouldn’t drink it with milk, so I find this is always an excellent alternative. It’s always great however to swap your drop occasionally and venture out of your comfort zone and try a completely different tea like Oolong or green tea. There is a world of beautiful teas out there, and I encourage everyone to explore its vastness, you just never know what will surprise you.
How to Brew an Epic Chai Tea (single cup)
Add one teaspoon of loose chai mix to your tea strainer in your mug.
Add a teaspoon of honey
Fill cup 1/3 way with boiling 100 degree/c water
Let brew for 5 mins
Heat your choice of milk, and top up mug to full
(FYI This is my method, but you can alter the water to milk ratio and honey to suit your preference!)
P.S my new fav snack is Tahini on Toast with Honey – seriously so good!