The more things change the more they stay the same. I often wonder how that can be true as I see the world around me changing relentlessly with none of it seeming to be the same. Growing up I remember the religious way my family made and drank chai. Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I walk into the kitchen with the smell of fresh ginger mixed with cloves and cardamom permeating from a boiling pot of awesome on the stove. Small glass cups appear on a steel tray, one for every member of the family, as the piping hot concoction is poured through a mesh strainer and into an old tea pot. The day goes on and the ritual is repeated at my father’s office as our clients come and go. The assistant greets each person as they enter, making sure despite the small talk to ask if they would like a hot cup of chai. Rich or poor, local or long distance, chai was one thing that no one said “no” to. It’s almost safe to say that business didn’t begin until the chai was served.
India: Largest producer of black tea and largest consumer of tea in the world
It’s funny because Masala Chai is not even native to India. During the British rule, stands were placed in blue collar work areas and the hot, sweet drink was given away for free with small pamphlets glorifying its ability to give you energy and suppress appetite. People soon couldn’t get enough of it and what started as a way to boost worker efficiency became a cultural phenomenon that is now an inseparable part of Indian culture. In every bazaar or bus stop, train station or temple, a chai stand is always nearby. India has become the largest producer of black tea and the largest consumer of tea in the world. Over 80% of the tea made in India is consumed by its own people!
Finding the best combination of ingredients
Starting a coffee shop from scratch might have been hard but selecting our signature drink was a no brainer. Spoorthi and I knew that the only drink that could properly symbolize our culture while still making us unique in this coffee-centred world was masala chai. But how would we capture the drink we knew? First you have black tea, a strong, bold variety that is no where near as shy as its green cousin or as gentle as its white one. This tea makes a statement from the first sip that stays with you throughout. Boiled milk smoothes out the sharp edges of the tea and gently invites you to keep drinking. The milk is assisted by cinnamon, warm and comforting, with just a hint of spice, reminding you this is something to be savored and not mindlessly gulped down. Speaking of spice, cardamom and clove work hand in hand to add drama to the landscape and surprise you in your journey. Black pepper, fennel, and other spices work behind the curtains to keep things interesting between the waves of flavor. Ginger, ginger, ginger comes cutting through your palate and cleaning your taste buds, preparing you to start your trip all over again.
Finding a dependable and quality supplier
The chai I know and love is sugar sweet, almost like a dessert in a cup. However, to meet western tastes, we had to scale back on the sweetness to give the drinker control over how much they were willing to handle. With a recipe in hand, we started scouting for vendors who could offer us the highest quality ingredients to make our special offering. We soon found the level of quality we expected demanded a price too high for our customers to stomach. Our search then turned to where our inspiration first started, India. Now began the calls to “aunties”, “uncles”, and friends as we looked for a way to get our hands on the best possible spices. We called my cousin in India to see if he can send few samples of the local tea and spices. That in itself took about two months since we had to deal with international shipping and whether or not it will be worth the price we are paying. All in all, we were able to come up with the perfect glass of Masala Chai using samples from India and on that day, HG Masala Chai was officially born.
Hidden Grounds Masala Chai is always made to order
All of our hard work has paid off and our customers can taste the difference. Each masala chai has fresh ginger, black tea, our indian spice blend, and fresh boiled milk. Every order is made fresh by our artisan baristas right before your eyes. No two chais are ever quite the same but it always makes you want to come back for more. Not in the New Brunswick area? Problem solved. Still can’t make it? Check out the how-to video below on how to make your own masala chai at home! But I promise, ours is better :)
Much has changed since the early mornings in my mom’s kitchen or the hours at the office with my dad, but this chai stays with me. Every sip takes me back, opening a portal to a simpler time. I hope our chai will bring you the same happiness it brings to me. Happiness to be remembered for years to come.
Tea Statistics: http://www.teaboard.gov.in/pdf/Tea%20Statistics%20Global%20Scenario.pdf
Chai Infographic: http://www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2012/04/everything_you_need_to_make_ch.html
HG Masala Chai Pictures: ohhs4mmie92, kshawty7