As temperatures drop, nothing can compete with the warming, spicy flavors of our masala chai blend. Whether you’re a chai purist, a latte lover or are eager to try chai in any format your barista dreams up, Next Door Café offers the best in to-go chai options as well as all of the chai ingredients you’ll need to fix yourself a cuppa chai, however and whenever you like it.
The Next Door Café sources its masala chai blend from Rishi tea, a direct trade importer of certified organic tea. The blend is an old South Indian recipe, full-bodied organic black tea leaves blended with organic cinnamon, whole pods of green cardamom, ginger root, black pepper, and clove.
Here’s how Rishi describes its Masala Chai blend:
“Literally “mixed spiced tea,” Masala Chai is a classic style of black tea blended with traditional spices native to South and Southeast Asia. The tea base consists of a robust and malty Assam balanced with our new, lively Orange Pekoe from northern Thailand. Our recipe is unapologetically spicy yet balanced, highlighting aromatic Guatemalan cardamom, hot and citrusy ginger, and sweet cinnamon, with accents of pungent cracked black pepper and fragrant cloves. Designed to be brewed both straight up and via stovetop simmered the traditional way in water and milk often with a touch of sweetness.”
Housemade Chai Concentrate
Now that you’re familiar with the subtleties of the backbone of our chai beverage program, Rishi’s Masala Chai, let’s peek behind the barista curtain to learn more about what’s behind our regulars’ favorite chai beverages. First, let’s learn about our house-made chai concentrate.
“Instead of buying chai concentrate from Rishi, we brew the tea leaves ourselves with a demerara sugar to create our own housemade chai concentrate. Demerara is unprocessed, natural raw sugar – there’s more of a caramel-y sweetness of a molasses flavor instead of a classic white sugar,” said Reina Telin, manager of Next Door Café. “This gives you a really full flavor without it having to be overly sweet, balanced flavor, not overpowering the cinnamon and cardamom flavors.
This chai concentrate, combined with any type of milk (we love Calder dairy!), is the basis of Next Door Café’s chai lattes, which are available both hot and cold.
“We sell a ton of chai lattes. I think our housemade concentrate sets us apart – we’re continuing to take the time to make it ourselves. People even buy chai concentrate in our 16 oz. bottles. This is a “secret menu” item!” said Reina.
Specialty Chai Creations
Beyond the basic-yet-brilliant plain steeped masala chai tea and the ever popular chai latte, Next Door Café has lots of tricks up its sleeves to inject the spicy comfort of Chai in a wide range of beverages.
“A lot of times, people are used to just ordering a chai, it’s fun to throw options at them, hold cold, different milks, cider, and espresso,” said Reina.
Whether you’re stopping by for a to-go beverage, or trying your hand as a barista at home, consider ordering, or recreating, the following chai creations:
- Plop a shot of espresso in a chai latte – hot or cold – to create a Dirty Chai
- Use it in your baking! Rishi’s Masala Chai is a great addition to spice cakes
- Add chocolate syrup to make chocolatey chai
- Combine with cider to create a Michigan chai-spiced cider
“I’m hopelessly addicted to the Chai-der from Zingerman’s Next Door. It’s a generous amount of the classic Masala Chai steeped in hot, fresh apple cider. It’s like a spiced cider but so much better (and caffeinated!),” Jackson Konwinski, tea buyer/specialty foods supervisor, Zingerman’s Delicatessen, said.
If you’re interested in trying your hand at brewing up your own chai masterpiece, consider the following guidance from our resident tea expert, Jackson Konwinski, tea buyer/specialty foods supervisor, Zingerman’s Delicatessen.
“Don’t be afraid to add a little more tea. If you’re going to be enjoying your chai blend with milk and sugar, you need a bigger, bolder flavor to stand up to the extra ingredients. If you haven’t done it, take the time to make a more traditional stovetop preparation. It’s more work but the depth and intensity of flavor are worth the effort. And it will make your house smell amazing!” Jackson said.
“Loose leaf is the best format for brewing because the tea has more room to move around and infuse and you can always make the perfect strength tea since you control the portion. However, sachets are incredibly convenient and great for people just getting into tea or who need something portable for work or travel,” said Jackson.
The Deli’s retail area also offers chai from Camellia Sinensis in Montreal. The first is Eva: a green tea based blend with loads of turmeric and ginger. The second is Winston: a black tea based blend with smoky black cardamom and chicory root. “These share some familiar elements with the classic Masala Chai but have some distinctive elements that offer a refreshing change from what we normally think of as ‘chai’, said Jackson.