Here’s what happened, in Ellie’s words.
“What’s the absolute best chai tea you can recommend?” was the question I copy-pasted to several tea-dedicated ‘instagrammers’, as I sat sipping my cappuccino.
I had no idea what was to come. As a self-proclaimed coffee lover, tea didn’t actually interest me all that much – I was in search of a gift for my partner.
Over the years, he’s had several chai teas that look pretty, but taste rather bland and watery, so I wanted to track down something extra special for him. The tea that was mentioned again and again, was Batch Tea’s Kama Sutra Sticky chai.
What’s the sticky?
It appeared from the website that the chai was made with honey, an animal product that we really don’t like to support the use of as vegans.
Disheartened, but still hopeful, I emailed Marc, one of the masters behind Batch Tea, to clarify if this was the case and mentioned that we normally add maple syrup as a sweetener.
He confirmed it isn’t vegan… but suggested an interesting proposition: He would send me 2 variations of the chai – one blended with agave (to replace the honey, as an option they’ve been testing) and one dry chai mix, for me to experiment with.
I thought this was a great idea and it would be fun for my partner to get to try it in the different forms.
I didn’t know it yet, but I would end up enjoying it just as much as my partner!
A couple of notes about us:
Me: Hi, I’m Ellie! Coffee lover & vegan. I like a thick mouthfeel and oodles of flavour in my drinks!
My partner: Tea and chai lover. Likes tea to feel like tea! Not a fan of milk tea 🙁
As vegans, we used soya milk for all our experimenting, which we found worked very well; it can handle much higher temperatures than dairy milk before curdling. And we used the ratio of 250ml liquid per 2 tsp of the tea mix.
1 chai. 2 methods. 5 different ways.
To add an extra dimension to the experiments, it turns out this chai was made deliberately to work just as well using multiple different preparation methods!
The main 2 methods we tried were what we found on the Sticky Chai page on the Batch website, as follows:
1. the “traditional method” – in a pan with half water, half milk
2. the “steeping” method – where you brew it the “regular” British way with boiling water and add a splash of milk after.
View these and the other preparation methods on the link mentioned above.
Here’s exactly what we tried:
1. Dry Chai mix. Steeping method. No sweetener added.
Trying it this way, I wasn’t particularly keen. It tasted interesting, better than regular breakfast tea, but I still found it lacking.
This is the way I normally feel about tea, so it wasn’t any surprise.
My partner who is the real chai tea lover said it tasted like a great quality mix, one of the best and most authentic tasting. According to him, it boasts a certain spice or flavour that all the best mixes seem to have.
Note: the Kama Sutra Sticky Chai spice blend was developed specifically to be balanced perfectly against the sweetener and the Assam tea, so we didn’t expect this to be our favourite! It’s also why they don’t offer the dry chai option for sale! (Editor’s note: though a dry chai blend to blow your minds is something we’re currently working on!)
Conclusion: Actually better than many chai mixes, but not blowing our minds.
Our rank: 4th (out of 5)
2. Dry Chai mix. Steeping method. Sugar added afterwards.
Both of us agreed this wasn’t the best option. It was okay. Just ok. For me, it still had the bland (*ahem, excuse us! – ed*), watery feel to it that I don’t like in tea – as a coffee lover – just sweeter.
My partner also found it tasted sweeter on the palette, but not pleasing enough. Adding the sugar afterwards simply wasn’t especially complimentary to all the delicious complex spices, as those wonderful flavours did get a bit lost under the taste of sugar.
Conclusion: Our least favourite combo as the sugar masks the lovely spices.
Our rank: 5th (out of 5)
3. Agave Blend. Traditional Pan Method.
This is where things really changed for me. I didn’t realise tea could taste so good, and I couldn’t get enough of it, which was a real shock! This is the version that Batch blended with agave.
My partner did like it, but interestingly, wasn’t as keen as me.
It was too milky for his taste, in that he didn’t feel like he was having “tea”. It reminded us of another milky drink we sometimes put together ourselves, called ‘moonmilk’ (spice infused hot milk).
For me though, the sweetness in this mix was spot on and added a whole other dimension to the flavours. It really enhanced the spices and made them ‘pop’!
Conclusion: SO GOOD! The quality spices really come to life in an authentic masala chai experience!
Our rank: 1st (out of 5) (not for my partner but this is my blog, so…)
4. Agave Blend. Steeping method.
Of the methods we tried so far, this was my partner’s favourite way to drink it, as it felt more like drinking regular “British style” tea to him, whilst still getting all the lovely flavours and sweetness.
I liked it this way too, but nowhere near as much as when made with a lot more milk.
Conclusion: SO GOOD AGAIN! My partner’s favourite method as it’s fragrant and tasty but without the thicker mouthfeel.
Our rank: 3rd (out of 5)
5. Dry Chai Mix. Traditional method. Maple Syrup added at the start.
As we were adding our own maple for this, it took quite a few attempts to get right. In the end we settled for using 1/8 tsp of maple per 250ml, which comes close to being the right amount of sweetness for us.
As it’s such a small amount it can be difficult to be precise.
We tried this version side by side with the pre-sweetened agave mix, and, whilst both were wonderful, the agave version just about wins out on this one.
Interestingly, we discovered it’s important to pour the maple syrup with the dry tea and allow it to steep together in water for a few minutes. If you add the maple at the end, it just does not seem to take on the same depth of flavour.
Conclusion: Maple just loses out to agave. But it was close!
Our rank: 2nd (out of 5)
So, by the end of this process, I’ve learned a few things:
1. Kama Sutra Sticky Chai is one versatile tea! Whether you like the steeped method or the pan method, it works perfectly! (I also hear it’s great with steamed frothed milk from a café. Can’t wait to try that!)
2. I’m still not exactly a ‘tea-lover’, but I’m not necessarily sure ‘coffee-lover’ is appropriate anymore either. Perhaps it’s time to redefine these terms and the black and white view I had over these beverages. I still don’t like “regular tea” though!
Could there be such a thing as a ‘latte-lover’? In any case, this is one of the best lattes I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying.
Not only that, but this journey has opened my mind, and by extension a whole new world of taste experiences that I am grateful to be able to look forward to.
3. Tea is so much more than a few herbs and boiling water: it is exciting, it is adaptive, and it is whatever you make it.
Having been previously adamant that coffee was the only drink for me, I do now truly believe that there is a tea out there for everyone.
You can buy Kama Sutra Sticky Chai here.
Are you a vegan chai lover too? We still haven’t officially released the Agave version as we’re still testing it’s longevity, but if you’d like to try the Agave option then order as usual and let us know in the order notes!
Would you like to help us with our experimenting?
Or taste test new products for us? Course you would! Email us at [email protected] and we’ll add you to our lovely taste-testers list.
Maybe you just love great drinks?
If so, let us help with our awesome tea hack to make cafe-style chai lattes at home!