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When Amy Rothstein realized that the preponderance of options for local coffee in New York did not translate into very many local tea options—and no local chai—she set out to make it herself.
Rothstein, a graduate student in New York University's Food Studies masters program, began making chai concentrate in the kitchen of her Brooklyn apartment (later graduating to a larger, industrial kitchen), and her company, Dona Chai, was born.
We've been big fans of the concentrate, which Rothstein's still brewing in Brooklyn, since the first time we tried it: It's spicy from a combination of cold-pressed ginger, a crew of traditional masala chai spices, and a long steeping time; it's tannic from the foundational black tea; and it's a little jammy from a bit of molasses. And it's very good stirred into milk, hot or cold, and gulped.
But chai concentrate is good for a lot more than just chai lattes. Two of our editors, Sarah Jampel and Caroline Lange, each armed with a bottle of the concentrate, headed boldly—that is, they sprinted—into the kitchen. Here's what they made:
Tea is a common poaching liquid for fruit, spices are a natural add-in to poaching liquid, and a chai-poached pear just sounded good—so that's what I made. Following some of these guidelines, I used 1 part chai concentrate to 1 part water, added a nub of sliced ginger to the mix, and poached 2 halved and cored pears until spoon-tender. Then I removed the ginger and reduced the liquid until syrupy—and the next day, drizzled it over the pears (a little sweet and a little spicy) in a bowl of yogurt for breakfast. —Caroline
Since rice pudding already goes so nicely with warm, toasty spices, it made sense to me to sub in chai concentrate for half of the milk in this recipe, which is one of my favorites. (I also thought the chai spices would get along with the sesame crumble included in that recipe. And it did!)
All I had on hand was brown rice, so I used that, though the recipe calls for white rice—and I actually liked the nuttiness of the brown rice against the cinnamon, ginger, and jammy molasses flavors in the chai. I bet raisins would send it over the edge. One thing to note: I used a combination of equal parts chai concentrate and milk to make the custard for the rice pudding, using the same ratio recommended on the Dona Chai bottle for making a chai latte. But because the chai concentrate won't thicken a custard the same way milk will, my final result was a little soupy (which I actually do like in a rice pudding). Next time, I'll probably decrease the amount of chai concentrate and up the milk—and add some spices to the mix to make up for it. —Caroline
Dirty Chai Tiramisu
I first learned about dirty chai lattes in college and have devoted every filled-up frequent user coffee shop card to the milky, spicy, caffeinated beverage ever since. When I've made it through ten small $2.12 coffees, I use the freebie to buy a $6.13 large iced dirty chai soy latte. (Baristas and economists, I'm sorry.)
So it seemed only obvious to use the Dona Chai concentrate to make an espresso-flavored tiramisu—a spongy, custardy version of my favorite drink. I made Emiko's classic tiramisu, but I added 1 tablespoon of the chai concentrate to the egg yolk and mascarpone mixture and 2 tablespoons to the coffee that each lady finger is dipped in. Next time, I'll up the amount even further for a more pronounced chai flavor. (I'd be wise not to add too much concentrate to the egg mixture, however, or it could make the cream soupy.)
- 3 eggs, separated
- 3/4 cup fine sugar
- 20 ounces mascarpone
- 1 packet ladyfinger cookies (10-14 oz worth; exactly will depend on the shape of the container)
- 1/2 cup strong black coffee
- splashes marsala or rum (optional)
- powdered bittersweet cocoa or grated chocolate
If you want to make a warm, spicy tiramisu and you don't have Dona Chai (yet), make your own chai concentrate or add ground spices to the coffee or the cream—cardamom, cloves, cinnamon—and the seeds of a vanilla bean.
And once you start tweaking tiramisu, you'll open a Pandora's box of other possibilities: lemon zest, grated ginger, cocoa powder, matcha (?!), jam... but now we've gotten away from chai.
What else will I do with the rest of the bottle? Tres leches with chai-spiced milk, baked French toast, chai caramels, chai-confectioners' sugar glaze for banana bread or pistachio cake, chai and sesame babka... —Sarah
How would you use chai concentrate? Share your creative ideas—we know you have 'em—in the comments below!