I’ve had this party idea for a while – Chai Tasting Party.
Let me start at the beginning. I can’t really drink coffee. After about half a cup my insides start shaking, I can’t shut-up, and there’s a 100% chance that I’m not going to be able to fall asleep that night. So years ago I decided my hot beverage drink of choice was going to be chai. (And yes, I know there’s caffeine in chai, but it usually takes at least 2 drinks until I start shaking.) Recently I’ve been buying a bunch of the premade chais to try at home. I knew there was no chance I was going to be able to finish all the ones I started, so I decided to look at it as a good opportunity to throw a party. (Because everything is a good opportunity to throw a party.)
I am not an expert in chai, I just know what I like. According to the Chrystina world of chai there are two different types of chai: sweet chai (like Dunkin’ Donuts’) and spicy chai (like Starbucks). Actually, my favorite coffee shop in Philadelphia, Good Karma, has both, which I always find pretty gratifying. I’ve found that as I’ve gotten over I prefer the spicy chai over the sweet chai. I even used to get extra sweetener added to my Starbucks chai at the beginning, but not anymore.
So I invited a bunch of my chai-drinking friends over and bought: Oregon Chai, Celestial Mountain Chai, Trader Joe’s Spicy Chai Tea Latte Mix, Tazo Chai teabags, Trader Joe’s spiced chai teabags, Tazo Chai, and ingredients to make homemade chai.
I pulled out the smallest teacups I owned so that no one overdid it on any one chai.
I set out sugar and honey in case anybody wanted to sweeten their chai. (They didn’t.)
And when the guests arrived we went through the chais one at a time until we tried them all. Here’s what we learned:
- The Oregon Chai was the sweetest. It also has the furthest out expiration date.
- The Mountain Chai was a crowd favorite because it wasn’t super sweet or spicy, just flavorful.
- The Tazo Chai tastes exactly like the chai that you get at Starbucks. (Unless, of course, you live in Philadelphia which is currently a test market for chai which seriously needs to stop immediately.)
For the chai concentrates the breakdown was 50% concentrate / 50% milk to make any of the chais.
- The Trader Joe’s Spicy Chai Tea Latte Mix also leaned towards the sweeter side, although people agreed it was a pretty solid alternative to one of the concentrates. Also, logistically speaking, this one has a much further out expiration date.
- We didn’t actually use any of the chai teabags because there were so many other chai options. I probably should have just given them to people as party favors.
The homemade chai, not pictured here because none of the process is pretty (and because I forgot to take a picture), was made using Wagh Bakri leaf tea, brown sugar, ginger, water, and milk. It’s an improvisational process every time I make it (because the freshness of the ginger and milk usually affect the taste), but here’s the approximate recipe.
Homemade Chai Recipe
Makes 2 cups
3 tsp. Wagh Bakri leaf tea
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 inch ginger
8 oz. water
8 oz. milk
Add tea, sugar, ginger, and water to a pan on the stove. Bring to boil and keep at a simmer for 10 minutes. Add milk, bring back to a boil and keep at a simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the tea. Enjoy.
I supplied all the tea so I had everybody bring food. We had plenty of cookies and one friend read on the internet that chai pairs well with beef jerkey. (It was actually pretty good and nice to have a savory snack amongst all the sweet ones.) My friend Erin made these absolutely adorable chocolate-dipped tea bag shaped cookies. She’s incredible.
I somehow had all the ingredients in my fridge to make 7 layer cookies, which are some of my absolute favorites.
I’m sure there’s a fancy way to host a chai tasting party that includes everybody sitting down at a long dining room table and everybody trying every chai at the same exact time. (In this scenario I’m 95% sure everyone is weawring hats.) But when you’re 27-years-old, don’t have a dining room, and your kitchen is standing-room only that’s just not the case. When everybody came in the door they came down to the kitchen, chose a cup, and chose a chai they wanted to try. I had the homemade chai brewing on the stove and my cookies had just come out of the oven so the house smelled pretty delicious. I also kept a pot of water on the stove at all times so that people could make tea as they pleased. And when it came to trying the concentrated chais? Everybody made their own whenever they were ready and then put it in the microwave for 30 seconds. How’s that for fancy?
All in all it was a blast. There were people from all different aspects of my life there and the conversation went great. It ranged from travel to politics to schooling to adulting. And I think everybody left with at least one new friend, which is cool. Overall, here are my tips for if you decide to host your own chai tasting party:
- Make sure you have water nearby so that people can take a break from drinking chai for a while.
- Have regular milk alternatives such as coconut milk or almond milk for people who don’t eat/drink dairy.
- Try to have a good balance of sweet and savory items on the table for eating.
- Keep the guest list to a maximum of 12 people so that one box of each type of chai is enough.
Also, this is a great idea for a no-alcohol party if that’s not your style. That said, by the end of the evening, I was definitely shaking on the inside, mind was running wild, and if I wasn’t so gosh darn tired that night I would have absolutely not been able to sleep.
Have you ever hosted your own chai tasting? I’d love to hear how it went.
PS. If you’re looking for ideas for a regular tea party, check out my how to host an afternoon tea party post.