NMRC's Guide to Commercial Chai Purchasing
by: Simple Nomad



While you can always use Weasel's chai recipe if you are near a grocery with the right ingredients and have his excellent recipe, sometimes you are on the road or out on the town and need that chai pick-me-up. This guide will tell you the best options out there.

You can basically choose between two commercial offerings for chai "concentrate". Remember, concentrate is simply a thick liquid intended for mixing with water or milk to make instant chai. Your choices depend on whether you are having chai using the traditional hot way, or iced in the non-traditional heathen way (which I personally prefer).

If you're looking for traditional hot chai, I recommend using Tazo Chai concentrate. While not as strong as some recipes, it is easy to make. I'd personally recommend not using the half and half method (half concentrate, half milk) and go for more concentrate for something a bit stronger. Simply mix and nuke it in the microwave.

For iced chai, use Oregon Chai, but use the one specifically for iced tea. Again, for stronger chai use more concentrate than milk. The Oergon Chai is a bit stronger than most concentrates, and iced chai makes for a great pick-me-up after sex (viewing porn online), work (writing 0day), or play (using 0day).

With both concentrates, you can go without milk and use water. The advantage to this is the milk tends to "blur" the intensity of the spices, so go water only for a nice spice head rush. Mmmm.... chai head rush....

You can get the concentrates at places like Whole Foods or World Market, although some mainstream grocery stores may carry it and stock on the "foreigner's aisle" (you know, where they put all the weird ethnic stuff together on one aisle at the grocery store because the grocers are freaked out by foreigners living in their mainstream suburban areas). Some of the stuff appears in specialty shops, like the Tazo products that you can pick up at Starbucks. Avoid this if possible -- Starbucks will charge you a fortune for Tazo concentrate. If you're going on a trip, buy a box or two, and fit those into your laptop bag. I mean, check your clothes if you have to, you can drink chai during that million year wait at baggage claim -- it's fucking chai, dude. Take the extra effort.

Starbucks gets their own special category in this guide, simply because you have to understand a thing or two about Starbucks. While they state they use Tazo Chai, and they have Tazo Chai concentrate for sale, it is not the same as the stuff behind the counter! That's right, the boxed Tazo Chai concentrate for sale is what they refer to as the "retail" chai, and they'll only use it if they run out of the good stuff. And it is better.

Apparently the addictive stuff you get at Starbucks from the dude or chick behind the counter has a thicker concentrate with larger quantities of key spices, mainly ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. I also suspect honey is added as well. If you must get a buzz, look no further or start making your own.

Be wary of those Starbucks inside of other businesses! Only the "real" Starbucks locations use the good stuff, that Starbucks inside Barnes and Noble uses the regular Tazo concentrate.

Even at Starbucks, you can modify your cup to make it even more intense. First off, order nothing but a venti. Anything smaller is like looking at the ladies' underwear section of the Sears catalog when a Playboy is at hand. Don't be a wuss. Second, they will make it iced on request, so if it is a hot day and you don't feel like large pit stains (like Ira Winkler on the panel at RSA 2003 in San Fran, ugh), get it iced. Third, the standard recipe (hot or iced) calls for six pumps for a venti from the concentrate they use. Only a script kiddie drinks Starbucks chai with the standard six pumps. Use eight if you're going to order anything at all, ten if you're in serious need of an intense spice rush.

Of course the all-out gonzo way endorsed by yours truly is a twelve pump venti iced chai with no milk. They will question you when you order it this way, mainly over the no milk part. Explain you want no milk, and no soy either, just add water when they would normally add milk. No milk means less between you and the spices, and twelve pumps of the concentrate is enough to just about kill a small child. Now while this may seem like a lot to ask of your typical coffee jerk at Starbucks, remember this is one of the easiest and quickest things for them to make, and if they are still resistant, a dollar tip in the tip jar will certainly cinch the deal. After a few trips to your favorite Starbucks (or a few days in a row at that Starbucks near your hotel during that out-of-town consulting gig), they will remember your order and your tip jar action, and half the time you'll find it ready and in your hand before you get your change.

Simple Nomad -- 08Jul2003