|"Like Valentine’s candies, zesty cinnamon highlights the aroma and flavour from a rich blend of spiciness; low on tea but full of spicy pizzazz down to the gingery pepper tickling one’s throat."|
The abundance of spice is actually quite different from many chai teas I’ve had before given the large one third to half an inch pieces of cinnamon, cracked allspice, whole cardamom pods and ginger chunks with their whiskery fibrous tails. These make up the bulk of the blend with cinnamon taking prominence. A lighter scatter of coriander offsets the equally low contrast of black apart from the spices owing to the tea and the black pepper. Thus, the tea component is only about one fifth of the mix that seemed to suggest this tea’s fuel power was drawing much more on amped up spices than the caffeine.
Ready to switch this tea into high gear, I was somewhat surprised by the brewing directions on the Up N' Atom website. Rather than the regular brief steep, brewing this tea requires a bit more forethought or commitment since Up N' Atom suggest boiling the tea for twenty to thirty minutes. Although, I can understand that extra spiciness would surely be coaxed by a longer steeping, it kind of puts a dampening on a moment’s fancy. To require pre-planning for a cup isn’t a customary measure. Yet they do suggest brewing the night before for an overnight steep, I am still partial to being able to brew within a commercial’s time span. But the larger pieces of the tea likely impart the reason for a longer brewing time.
The redolent aroma of the tea has a fresh verve with plenty of wake up power. Initially, the scent lifts with a a tonic-like wave of cardamom, teasing into the allspice and laying out on the warm spicy cinnamon. Snuggling into the bouquet, one can also find ripples of coriander and cloves as the aroma is bundled with a mincemeat kind of layering although the peppy cardamom notes are the most evident.
In the spirit of sleeping in days versus bright-eyed get going mornings, I tried brewing the tea both for a 12 minute steep and by boiling for thirty minutes as Up ‘N Atom recommends. Since they also only give large brewing quantities, I tucked in two tablespoons of tea for two cups of water as their suggested proportions work out to two teaspoons to a tablespoon per cup.
The longer steep pulled back the covers on a translucent a caramel brownish infusion, not so alluring by eye if not for the zesty cinnamon laden bouquet. Decanting the tea, it almost looks gooey as it drops slowly with a viscous stream from the spices as cinnamon has a tendency to do. The cinnamon’s heat rushes the medium scent of the tea, tugged with allspice, retaining a seductive sweetness to the spices despite their feverish intensity. The cinnamon rings as fiercely in the tea, like cinnamon Valentine heart candies that electrify one’s tongue, sweet and spicy. Yet each sip relaxes into a root-ish, hull flavour from the spices that ends punctuated by the bite of the ginger and pepper. The spice level is joyously abundant although, it could easily not have any tea as the black tea is hardly noticeable. This may be a good thing since boiling the tea for so long may likely make a more ample black tea bitter but the marriage between the tea and the spices is part of what I like about chai teas. So I somewhat miss some punch of the black tea to hold the palette and accent the spices since the earthy, tuber-like flavour of the tea isn’t as defined, reminding me some of cooking water from Chinese wheat noodles. That being said, such wonderfully spicy flourishes seem hard to come by in most chai teas. Similarly, the cinnamon takes more of the focus in the flavour and taste of the tea than several Indian chai blends where cardamom is more predominant. As the cinnamon also brings its sweetness, it comp;ements and cushions the tea's zing without losing the spicy impact. Despite the prevalence of cinnamon, all of the spices do seem to come together nicely for an even sip where you can tease out the cloves, allspice, cardamom and coriander as the tea hits a different spot on your tongue. Then in the short finish, the ginger and pepper sing down one’s throat in the medium aftertaste.
In comparison, after a snooze for the kettle, the fifteen minute steep of the same amounts still offered up a murky golden caramel cup with again a scent far sweeter than any alarm, largely romanced by cinnamon. The light to medium body has a slightly lighter taste but remains spicy with a bit of a different balance than the longer steeping. The cup seems hotter as the pepper and ginger seem more obvious. Despite the shift, the tea retains a nice feel to the light root-like flavour and a pleasing blend to the spiciness even though the other spices, the cloves, cardamom and allspice, aren’t as readily apparent. So a shorter steep can happily still please when time is not on one’s side.
There’s still no need to go back to bed, for one of the best things about this blend is that it takes well to re-brewing. Even after the longer steeping, the spices can be re-infused which speaks to the freshness of their ingredients. Upon re-steeping, the spices still have plenty of power to please with a cinnamon scent and more allspice prevalent in the flavour whereas a third steeping was also spicy but starts to get slightly sharp.
As much as I have tried my own hand at mixing chai blends, Up N' Atom’s Chai Black tea packs a fresher medley than I dare think I’d ever procure from my local store’s spice rack. The bold spiciness has enough juice to wake one up any time of day and is certainly worth getting out of bed for.
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