No matter what the weather, chai remains a perennial favorite for its mix of sharp spices and pleasant sweetness, balanced out by a milky base. Coming away from the 2012 Fancy Food Show, we found four small businesses who are channeling the classic blend in various forms of food and drink.
The Chai Cart
Paawan Kothari left her Silicon Valley career to take advantage of the food truck movement in San Francisco, dealing out childhood flavors to curbside pedestrians. The business quickly took off, and now Kothari offers her goods in concentrate form. This is our favorite of the bunch with good reason; Kothari personally sources her ingredients and no sugar is added to the final product. The Chai Cart offers masala, rose and chai latte concentrates in addition to a line of loose teas.
Founded in 2008, the goods from Bhakti Chai have stayed mostly in the Rocky Mountain region. Serving up Original, Unsweetened, Decaf and Coffee Blend chai concentrates, the flavors are also available in massive 64oz. growlers for the serious chai fiend. Ginger overtones are balanced by the sweet anise notes from fennel. The organic, fair trade tea is given its punch from evaporated cane juice and a series of fresh spices. Bhakti Chai also dedicates a portion of their proceeds to charitable organizations, including the Global Fund for Women and Girls Education International.
Third St. Chai
Another Colorado brand, Third St. offers six flavors of concentrated chai that is prepared simply by adding milk. The microbrewed beverage can be served hot, iced or blended, and is only slightly sweetened. Showing responsibility at every turn, the Third St. facility is fully wind-powered, and the ingredients they use are composted for local farmers.
Complement your hot cup of chai with a similarly flavored handful of Hippie Chow granola. While they make a number of mixes, the aggressively spiced chai version is definitely the standout. The all-natural ingredients list includes organic oats, almonds, honey, canola oil, spices, sugar, vanilla extract and salt—exactly the kind of wholesome goodness you would expect from a brand called "Hippie Chow".