Masala is an Indian term for a blend of spices. Garam is the word for hot. And garam masala is a blend of hot spices that usually contains cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger, and black pepper. Most tea (chai) in India is served spiced with a garam masala blend, sweetened to increase the spiciness, and made with milk to give a creamier, decadent quality.
Our chai concentrate is based on traditional garam masala chai flavors, but brewed to provide balance, consistency, and eliminate the time consuming steeping process. When I developed the recipe, I based the flavor profile on a previous loose-leaf masala chai blend. That is how it started anyway. Through tasting nearly every chai concentrate on the market, as well as tweaking different formulations I settled upon our current recipe. I chose to create a 3:1 recipe so that the finished drink would be 3 parts milk to 1 part chai concentrate. This was to make it creamier than the 1:1 chai concentrates that were prevalent at the time. I decreased the sweetness compared to others, but made sure to find a balance so that the spices didn’t leave a bitter aftertaste. After 8 months of developing the recipe I felt like I had created an excellent recipe which I’m still very proud of.
Our chai is infusion of black tea from Thailand, Myanmar, and Yunnan, China. I believe it is important to taste the black tea, so I chose teas that are unusual for a recipe rooted in Indian tradition, but have flavors that lend themselves well to the spices, sugar, and milk. These teas also have very little astringency compared with the more traditional black tea from Assam, India. It is important to use the correct tea base in such a strong concentrate since steeping an Assam to the point where the flavor came through would overwhelm the drink with astringency. I also developed the recipe to use cardamom as a primary flavor. Cardamom is quite an expensive ingredient, but I believe that it is the key to creating a well-rounded blend. It really brings great flavor to the more familiar spices such as cinnamon and clove, plays well off the heat of the black pepper and ginger, and cuts through the milk and sugar without overpowering the tea.