Ten Tips For Brewing Better Tea – Part One


I don’t cover that many back to basics themes but in this I’ll explain ten ways to improve an approach to brewing tea.

  1.   Ditch the tea bags and drink better tea

Tea in tea bags is typically terrible; low quality, ground-up dust.  Sticking with an old favorite brand is fine but in the end that usually amounts to drinking bad tea.

Beyond tea bags, loose teas vary a lot.  In general, if a tea looks ground up (as CTC, crush-tear-curl automated processed teas are, or just broken orthodox versions can be) then the brewed tea won’t be very good.  It’s difficult to summarize what makes up “good tea,” since that can mean a range of different things. Paying more is no guarantee, and not all vendors can probably even tell the difference themselves.  The look of a website or physical shop tends to not mean much either. You have to go through a learning curve to judge for yourself.

Wuyi Origin old bush Mi Lan Xiang Dan Cong oolong

  1.   Don’t use boiling point water for green tea

Simple enough.  Preferences could vary, and for different green teas different temperatures would work best (per individual preference), but dropping down to something like 75 C / 170 F for most green teas works much better, for most people.  Even lower for some Japanese green versions; it’s best to experiment a bit and read around.

  1.   Don’t trust bloggers or vendors for input

So much for the rest of this list, right?  More than half the people offering advice about tea online–vendors included–know very little about tea, and haven’t experienced much for varying parameters, checking out different versions, even trying very high-quality tea, looking into background research, etc.  Even what I say should be taken with a grain of salt, to some extent. Most input really would be helpful, it all just needs to be screened.

  1. About infuser devices

Orthodox Assam in a for-purpose basket, cup, and lid infuser device

I tend to de-emphasize this factor but brewing devices are a critical aspect.  For Western style brewing (the teaspoon per cup approach) it seems to not matter as much; you could use a ceramic teapot, infuser basket, gravity device (similar to a drip coffee maker in design), or even a French press, and results wouldn’t vary much.  Some people brew green teas in a glass to see them swirl, which also works out using specialized tea bottles / tumblers, and those also travel well. Covering a tea while brewing probably makes a difference; volatile components that make up the flavors could evaporate off otherwise.

To be continued tomorrow

Images provided by and all copyrights held by author



Inspired With Japan: How to Create Your Own Personal Tea Room


Guest contribution by Hannah Thomas

The word “Zen” is what first comes to mind when we think of Japan. Japanese design is characterized by simplicity and minimalistic approach, which ultimately leads to serenity and harmony. The cluttered living is bad for the mind and body, so Japanese modest design is about restoring balance into our lives through a careful choice of elements and colors in our homes.

Ancient tea ceremonies performed in Japanese households are focused on achieving inner peace and deep contemplation while drinking and enjoying tea. This is why there is a special attention paid to designing a tea room in a home where the perfect ambiance for relaxation can be reached. If you are considering creating your own tea room, here’s what you should have in mind.

1. Elements of Nature

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/bonsai-tree-bonsai-tree-small-738463/

Tea is meant to be drunk outside; that’s why it’s important to add natural elements in the room. Place traditional Japanese plants in the corners, such as bonsai and bamboo. Of course, adding more greenery of any kind will heighten the feeling of being close to nature. Sleek plants like orchid or palm will give a touch of simple elegance to the space.

2. Alcove (tokonoma)

Tokonoma is a recessed alcove that’s often decorated by a hanging stroll, usually changed at the beginning of every season in order to reflect it. Tokonoma has gained popularity in many European countries like Norway, Sweden, and the UK – actually, in any country where gardening is art. It is an unmissable element of a tea room, as it’s one of the essentials of Japanese design. if you don’t want to change it every season, choose one for the whole year.

3. Low tables

Image source: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1395443

A traditional Japanese room should have a low table, as it’s common to sit on the floor, that is, on a tatami mat or a cushion. If you experience colder months, you can buy a heatable low table (kotatsu), which is popular not only in Japan but also in northern countries. Their specificity is in the upper part covered by a blanket, while it gets heated from the underneath.

4. Tatami mats

This type of mat is thick and made of woven straws and is usually two meters in size. Every traditional Japanese home has it, to that extent that rooms in Japan are measured by the number of mats that could fit in them. Bear in mind that you should only be stepping onto tatami barefoot.

5. Translucent sliding doors

Shoji Japan House Japanese Paper Bran

Image source: https://www.maxpixel.net/Shoji-Japan-House-Japanese-Paper-Bran-1604870

Shoji, a special kind of sliding doors is made of wooden lattices which are covered with translucent paper that allows the light entering or a dash of fresh air. A slightly different version of shoji, also used in China, has a sheet of glass on one side of the door. Alternatively, sliding panels can be moved up and down instead of right and left – a version popular in European countries for practical reasons.

6. Presence of light

The right presence of natural light is very important for the tea room. In Japan, windows are frequently covered with rice paper. This unique translucent paper diffuse natural light that shines in the room, which creates a highly serene ambiance needed to enjoy the tea ceremony. In other countries, a great alternative is often used. Basswood is used for shutters that achieve the same effect – they are able to adjust according to the changes in the light. Timber, like the one used for plantation shutters in Sydney, Australia, is adjusted to the air moisture in a specific room, so the natural processes in the tea room aren’t interrupted.

Final words

Lastly, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t go too far with the elements. Minimalism is the direction to follow, so it’s not just about WHAT you put in the tea room; it’s also HOW MANY elements you use.

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How Much Caffeine is Too Much?


Guest Contribution by Steve O’Dell

Caffeine. It’s not good for us…

…or so we thought.

Caffeine tends to be one of those issues that get highly debated without there ever being a conclusive answer. Why is that?

Some people claim that caffeine makes them anxious and prevents them from sitting still, while others feel little to no effect. This is important because here’s the deal with caffeine: it all depends on how you’re getting it.

The effect of caffeine in soda is not the same as caffeine in coffee, and both are totally different from the way caffeine will influence a matcha tea drinker. All 3 of these drinks are made up of completely different ingredients. Ever notice how quickly you burn out when you drink soda? Sodas are much like sports drinks in that they contain loads of sugar. They are great for when you need a quick boost of energy, but that energy is short-lived. With the aggressive combination of sugar and caffeine working in unison, that energy surge goes away just as quickly as it came on. This has a lot to do with the sugar involved.

Coffee, on the other hand, contains a lot of caffeine on its own. Morning coffee drinkers complain that they feel jittery by lunchtime. It is important to realize how caffeine works when left to its own devices. Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning that when you consume large amounts of it in the morning, there’s a strong possibility you may feel dehydrated later in the day. That’s why it’s imperative that you balance out your coffee intake with an equal amount of water.

Tea is the exception when it comes to caffeine. People who drink matcha tea are much more energized throughout the day than their coffee and soda drinking peers. Matcha tea is unique in that it contains powerful ingredients that bring out the power of caffeine in the best way possible. Matcha tea comes packed with something called l-theanine and, while it sounds pretty scientific, is just a naturally-occurring compound that helps reduce stress, increase focus and lower heart rate.

On paper, it seems that the effects of caffeine and l-theanine would contradict each other, but the end result is actually the complete opposite. When combined, the end result is something of a superpower. Caffeine in green tea is absorbed into the bloodstream at a slower pace so that you have an energy boost just like you would with coffee. The difference is that the energy you get from green tea lasts longer because of the introduction of l-theanine. When the l-theanine kicks in, your mind will be able to relax and focus on what’s important. The caffeine will still be there so that you have the energy necessary to take on the day.

Is there really such a thing as too much caffeine? Like anything, caffeine should be taken in some form of moderation. If it wasn’t safe, caffeine would not be on the FDA’s list of “safe” substances. It generally comes down to how you get your caffeine. The way your body reacts to large amounts of caffeine in soda or coffee will be different from the way it will react to the caffeine in matcha tea. And it’s important to keep in mind that it is naturally-occurring. Even decaffeinated teas still contain small amounts of caffeine. The next time you take a sip of your favorite green tea, take a moment to appreciate the most natural ingredients working together to do their job.

Steve O’Dell

Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder



Blast From the Past: Unique and sophisticated tea cocktails for the dog days of summer


It’s the height of summer, and these long, hot days practically beg us to get a bit more creative with our liquid refreshment. If you still haven’t gotten around to making a few tea cocktails to dazzle your guests at a summer soirée, now’s the time to try.

Tea can be introduced into your cocktail by infusing the leaves into the spirit, by using brewed tea or tea concentrate as a mixer, by infusing tea into a simple syrup, or by using tea ice cubes. Vodka or gin are great places to start with creating a tea-infused spirit: steep 1/2 cup of jasmine tea or 1/2 cup of Earl Grey tea in a 750 ml bottle of vodka or gin for a few hours (some say up to a couple of days, but in my experience, that’s a bit long), strain using cheesecloth, and store.

Aside from spirits, a few basic building blocks will help give you the flexibility to get creative: simple syrups, garnishes, and tea ice cubes provide endless possibilities. Make a simple syrup by bringing 1 cup of sugar and a 1/2 cup water to boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cool and store for up to 2 weeks. The cool thing with simple syrups is that you can steep tea, ginger, citrus, herbs, spices, flower petals, and practically anything else you can think of in the syrup. My favorite ingredients for simple syrups to use for tea cocktails are ginger, citrus, and lychees.

For garnishes, unfurled (or even rolled) tea leaves make great garnishes, as do matcha / flower / zest-laced sugar, lychees, graham-cracker rims, pomegranate seeds, or flowers / petals. The choices are endless, so think outside the cherry (or olive)!

To get you started, here are a couple of simple, unique cocktails that everyone loved at the last tea cocktail tasting we hosted:

Kentucky Green Tea

While it may sound extremely odd (and extravagant) to use a meaty gyokuro in a bourbon cocktail, you might be surprised at how well the savory tea and bourbon commingle:

1 oz gyokuro or kabuse concentrate, chilled
1 oz Jim Beam or other bourbon
1 tsp of honey, or to taste
lime splash

Shake in a cocktail shaker and pour over ice. Garnish with lime slice.

Jazmine Quartet

1 oz jasmine-infused vodka
1/2 oz St. Germaine
1/2 oz lychee syrup
Drop of ginger juice*

Shake ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice, strain into a glass, top with seltzer water, and garnish with jasmine pearls.

* You can make ginger juice by finely pulverizing ginger in a food processor, placing the pulp in cheesecloth, and squeezing out the juice.

Article by Tracy Monson, originally posted July 2012.

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Review: The Tea Spot Simple Steeps


I received three flavors of The Tea Spot’s “Simple Steeps” to sample and review. I was intrigued and curious to know what was a “Simple Steep”. Turns out they’re individually-portioned packets of loose tea. So imagine a teabag’s individually-sealed packet, but picture it filled with loose tea instead of tea-filled sachet. While requiring slightly more effort than a tea bag, it still seems a very convenient option for travel and portability, skipping measuring, and maintaining freshness while still getting the enjoyment of whole-leaf. When I measured one of the packets, I found it to have just under a tablespoon of tea: A delightful amount for a single cup. While a part of me cringes at the waste from extra packaging, it seems to me that the convenience would occasionally be worth it (hello, travel!). Each box had an explanation of the flavor, illustrated instructions, and lists the health benefits and facts of the tea in question.

I decided to start my morning off with “Rise and Chai”. The name made it an obvious choice, as well as the fact that I tend to only have black teas in the first half of the day. An interesting chai consisting of both pu-erh and black tea, it is a minimal-ingredient chai compared to many with the other ingredients being cinnamon, turmeric, and fennel. While I tend to think of cardamom as an essential chai ingredient (we all have our biases) I found this chai to be pleasantly well-rounded. The cinnamon and turmeric gave it just enough bite and the fennel rounded out the flavor with a little bit of that sweet-herby flavor. The box claims that it’s “…delicious even without any added cream or sweetener” and they’re right that it has a nice level of natural sweetness. I feel that one could add a touch of honey to round out the flavor a tiny bit more, but it certainly wasn’t necessary. The second steeping was what one would expect: the cinnamon came through the strongest, but the flavor was still good even a little mellowed.

After a long and tiring day in the office, I decided that a cup of matcha would be the perfect pick-me-up. I was surprised by the instructions, as they say to whisk the small packet of matcha with 16-20 ounces of warm water. It sounded like a huge amount of water to me, but I believe in following directions to the letter on the first try. So I whisked the matcha into a small amount of water and then poured it into a mug and added the rest of the water, swirling to combine. I found the flavor to be mellow and well-balanced, but I would probably use less water next time, perhaps eight or ten ounces. My assumption is that the goal when designating that quantity of water is to make it more appealing to those who are less accustomed to the flavor of matcha and expect something thinner. I’m certainly in favor of expanding the tea audience and exposing people to new flavors, so I can only applaud their efforts to mainstream this delicacy.

I sampled the final tea “Flat Belly” in the evening not long before bed. Technically a tisane, the herbal had only three ingredients: hibiscus, peppermint, and licorice root. Touted as a tea for maintaining a healthy weight because of its natural sweetness but full flavor, I was glad that I only steeped it the minimum suggested time of six minutes! With those three power-packed flavors it was quite strong. I’ve always been fond of hibiscus, with its bright color and sharp-sweet flavor. The combination of bright hibiscus, cool mint, and earthy licorice was a good blend. I thought the licorice was a little strong, but I also used merely hot water rather than boiling. I think full-boiling water would help bring out the mint and hibiscus to better balance the licorice.

The Tea Spot was founded by a cancer fighter who found tea during her recovery and fell in love with the amazing health benefits. Based out of Boulder, Colorado in the USA, they blend their teas in small batches to maintain quality control. Along with a goal of touching lives, fostering health and wellness, and teaching the benefits of whole tea; they also donate 10% of all profits in-kind to cancer and community wellness programs.



The Bamboo Whisk With a 500-Year History – Part Two


Continued from yesterday’s post.

Let’s look at the bamboo…

There are approximately 100 different types and forms of chasen used by various schools of tea. Hachiku (Henon bamboo) produces a smooth and frothy whipped green tea, while shichiku (purple) and kurochiku (black) make a green tea with an island of foam, while susudake (soot-stained bamboo) creates a foamless green tea.

Fine-grained hachiku (Henon bamboo) with its straight fibers is the choice of Urasenke tea school, and this bamboo is best used after aging for three years. First, the hachiku bamboo is simmered to remove dirt and oil – missing this step will result in discoloration of the wood. Then in mid-winter, when Takayama is blasted by icy winds, the bamboo is placed like a tepee in the rice fields to sun-dry. During the month or so of drying, the green bamboo gradually turns blond, just like a tatami mat if you have ever had new ones put into your house! Once the bamboo is dried, it goes into storage for another year or two where it takes on a distinctive amber tone.

One length of hachiku bamboo yields just three to four chasen. This is due to the joints on the bamboo. Each chasen needs to have the joint at a particular distance from the head- exactly 9 centimeters above the joint and three centimeters below it.

After shaving just the outer layer of the bamboo, the section above the joint is split into 16 equal parts. Imagine holding a long dinner candle and carving it from the top down to the middle to make 16 equal cuts! Each section of the bamboo is about 4 millimeters wide, then the inner part of each strip is carved out, leaving a skin about 1 millimeter thick. Each of these strips is then further split into 10! One millimeter is about the width of a needle. This makes 80 outer tines and 80 inner ones, so 160 in total. This will be an 80-tine whisk. There are 100 tines and 120 as well.

The next step, called aji-kezuri, is the shaving of the tines. Remember, these tines are 1 millimeter or less in thickness, yet the master is going to shave them down even further. The tines need to be soaked in hot water to soften them before the inside of the tine is shaved. This is a delicate process where the artisan is working purely by feel.

What follows next is called mentori, or gently rounding the ends of the outer tines, which is one of the most delicate steps and is what prevents the matcha from sticking to the tines.

The artisan now weaves dazzling colored thread in and out to separate the tines (known as shitaami) and wraps the thread twice around the outside (uwaami). He then inspects and removes any stray bamboo chips or dust at the base before gripping the inner tines and twisting them to create this magnificent functional piece of art.

Watching this mesmerizing craft has given new meaning to my morning bowl of matcha. The love Tanimura san puts into his chasen infuses my tea with magic. If you would like to visit Tanimura san in Nara, or would like to be put on the waiting list for a custom-made chasen with thread color of your choice, please send me an email! I encourage you to connect with Wanobi to see more of beautiful artisan Japan.

Images provided and all copyrights held by author.



The Bamboo Whisk With a 500-Year History – Part One


To enjoy matcha the way Sen no Rikyu made it almost 500 years ago, you would need to whisk it with a bamboo chasen (whisk), intricately carved by hand from one piece of aged bamboo.

Today China holds the lion’s share of mainstream chasen being cranked out, thousands at a time by the three main factories. Sadly, selling cheap has given China an edge on the market but they have missed the mark completely when it comes to the magic of this true artisan tool and its myriad applications based on the method of whisking employed by the various tea ceremony schools.

Thanks to Wanobi Beautiful Japan’s founder, Yuko Sangu, I had the privilege of meeting one of the last remaining artisans of the bamboo chasen, Master Tango Tanimura. After being dazzled by his craft, there’s no wonder he has a year waiting list! In fact, Tanimura san makes most of the whisks for all the tea ceremony teachers in Japan. He knows exactly how each school uses the chasen, and therefore how to craft the chasen to achieve the desired matcha liquor. Unless a craftsman has this intimate knowledge, it is impossible to know how to proceed. This is why chasen made overseas are not precise and can never be genuine.

Born in 1964 in Takayama in Nara Prefecture, Master Tanimura is the 20th generation of the Tanimura family, who have been making chasen for almost 500 years in the very same town. Takayama has been the center of chasen manufacturing in Japan for more than five centuries.

The Tanimura family is one of three remaining of the 13 chasen-making families that were granted surnames by the Tokugawa government during the Edo Period (1603-1867). So secretive was the art form back then that the families shut their curtains and crafted by candlelight so no one could steal their technique. Tango Tanimura has mastered the family secret production technique passed down from father to son just as his ancestors did.

So let’s explore this secret technique by first looking at what a chasen does…

The sole purpose of a chasen is to mix the powdered green tea called matcha with hot water so the particles, which are as tiny as the smoke of a cigarette, are completely suspended in the water. Depending on which tea ceremony school you may follow, the chasen and student can produce a luxurious foamy cap with delicate white streaks running through it, that hides the deep emerald liquor below. As you sip the foam, you instantly unveil the hidden gem waiting for your admiration.

Of course the quality of matcha is an important element when it comes to producing an enticing, frothy bowl but the whisk is just as important so please never use a blender or one of those metal whizzers!

The key to this dainty yet resilient tool is in the meticulously selected Japanese bamboo from which it is crafted: the secret is to make maximum use of the most pliable Japanese bamboo and skillfully hand carve it from a single piece so that it won’t easily warp or break.

A chasen from Takayama is the real deal, boasting a delicate finish and suppleness in its bamboo fibers which is completely unrivaled anywhere in the world. In fact, the peerless functional aesthetic of the chasen is a reflection of the Japanese soul, and frankly, using one is the only way to get that authentic Japanese matcha experience.

To be concluded tomorrow.

Images provided and all copyrights held by author.



How Much Caffeine is Too Much?


Guest Contribution by Steve O’Dell

Caffeine. It’s not good for us…

…or so we thought.

Caffeine tends to be one of those issues that get highly debated without there ever being a conclusive answer. Why is that?

Some people claim that caffeine makes them anxious and prevents them from sitting still, while others feel little to no effect. This is important because here’s the deal with caffeine: it all depends on how you’re getting it.

The effect of caffeine in soda is not the same as caffeine in coffee, and both are totally different from the way caffeine will influence a matcha tea drinker. All 3 of these drinks are made up of completely different ingredients. Ever notice how quickly you burn out when you drink soda? Sodas are much like sports drinks in that they contain loads of sugar. They are great for when you need a quick boost of energy, but that energy is short-lived. With the aggressive combination of sugar and caffeine working in unison, that energy surge goes away just as quickly as it came on. This has a lot to do with the sugar involved.

Coffee, on the other hand, contains a lot of caffeine on its own. Morning coffee drinkers complain that they feel jittery by lunchtime. It is important to realize how caffeine works when left to its own devices. Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning that when you consume large amounts of it in the morning, there’s a strong possibility you may feel dehydrated later in the day. That’s why it’s imperative that you balance out your coffee intake with an equal amount of water.

Tea is the exception when it comes to caffeine. People who drink matcha tea are much more energized throughout the day than their coffee and soda drinking peers. Matcha tea is unique in that it contains powerful ingredients that bring out the power of caffeine in the best way possible. Matcha tea comes packed with something called l-theanine and, while it sounds pretty scientific, is just a naturally-occurring compound that helps reduce stress, increase focus and lower heart rate.

On paper, it seems that the effects of caffeine and l-theanine would contradict each other, but the end result is actually the complete opposite. When combined, the end result is something of a superpower. Caffeine in green tea is absorbed into the bloodstream at a slower pace so that you have an energy boost just like you would with coffee. The difference is that the energy you get from green tea lasts longer because of the introduction of l-theanine. When the l-theanine kicks in, your mind will be able to relax and focus on what’s important. The caffeine will still be there so that you have the energy necessary to take on the day.

Is there really such a thing as too much caffeine? Like anything, caffeine should be taken in some form of moderation. If it wasn’t safe, caffeine would not be on the FDA’s list of “safe” substances. It generally comes down to how you get your caffeine. The way your body reacts to large amounts of caffeine in soda or coffee will be different from the way it will react to the caffeine in matcha tea. And it’s important to keep in mind that it is naturally-occurring. Even decaffeinated teas still contain small amounts of caffeine. The next time you take a sip of your favorite green tea, take a moment to appreciate the most natural ingredients working together to do their job.

Steve O’Dell

Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder



Blast From the Past: Take a walk on tea’s wild side


Only the boldest—and most reckless—among tea drinkers have tried it.  To drink it, one must possess a certain amount of confidence and savoir faire.  No, it’s not some new metropolitan or socialite brew.  It’s certifiably wild, rustic, and homespun—it’s the stuff from which Grimm’s Fairy Tales are made!  What is it?  Tisanes made from some exotic stuff that you probably never realized you could drink!

There are several ways to go about collecting your tea’s ingredients.  You can find them in many places (although probably not at your grocery store, or any store, for that matter).  To create the wildest of teas, you may want to take a walk in the park, in the forest, or around a campground.  Sometimes you can even find your material peeking up between sidewalk cracks in the city.  Summer is the season of exploration and discovering new teas.  What kinds of flora should you gather for your cauldron?  Consult this list of suggestions (and get a guide book with photographs for distinguishing physical traits):

1.    Verveine, or Lemon Verbena:  It is in full bloom in summer.  The flowers are a yellow, milky color and are sometimes pink.  It can get very large and puts forth a lot of flowers and leaves.  I have used it in tea to harness a relaxing effect.  It can be very calming on the stomach, but don’t drink too much of it!  Use only a few petals or leaves.

2.    Little Wild Rose:  You may not think to eat flowers unless you’ve seen Monsoon Wedding.  Even if you’re not a fan of Bollywood or Indian movies, flowers (especially wild roses) are delicious in salads and teas.  It’s hard not to find them when you get a whiff of their intoxicating, though mild fragrance.  If you don’t want your tea to be too acidic, boil for less than ten minutes.  Drink it with Verveine, if you are interested in seeing how the two mesh.

3.    Yarrow: Yarrow is easiest to find if you live in the Southwestern United States.  It is a diaphoretic that helps with circulation (it has several other medicinal benefits too).  To enjoy it, add two leaves to boiling water.  Sweeten it with honey, if you like.  Like Verveine, you should be careful to not use too much or drink it too frequently unless you live next door to a homeopathic doctor.

4.    Calendula, or Marigolds: To make it, steep a few dried flowers in very hot water for less than six minutes.  You can mix it with other flowers and herbs, or just drink it alone.  It will help detoxify your body and improve your immune system.

Originally posted in July 2009, written by Alexa Teabauchery

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Compass Coffee Roasting’s Unexpected Chai


I have a habit of wandering through the quiet downtown in Vancouver, Washington on weekday afternoons as a favored form of easy exercise on almost any day it isn’t raining. I have come across various unexpected treasures in the surprisingly sleepy area. Often considered a suburb of its neighbor to the south–Portland, Oregon–Vancouver tends to be a little more on the subdued side. Yet every now and then it has the ability to surprise me. One such instance is a small, local coffee roaster that has only two cafe locations, one in Portland and the other in Vancouver. I occasionally check cafes out to see what kind of tea they offer and how they serve it (and once disappointed, order a dry cappuccino).

Imagine my surprise when I found that Compass Coffee Roasting has its own in-house chai! I absolutely had to order it. I asked the barista ringing me up about it, and he explained that they used to offer three kinds of in-house, but now have only the one and another two that are externally sourced. He expressed some regret over this fact, as it was his opinion that the external ones simply did not stand up.

I ordered mine with almond milk and then waited as it was prepared. After a final sprinkle of cinnamon on top–which the barista confided helps round out the flavor–my ceramic mug was returned to me. I was surprised to find it a quite traditional chai. It was extremely sweet to my tastes, but I find all chai to be that way so I can’t be a fair judge on the matter.

The initial flavors that hit me were ginger and the cinnamon from the topping. The inclusion of lemon peel helps give it a citrusy sweet pep that plays well with the ginger. I found that it had a pleasant but not overwhelming bite to it.

The initial flavor on the tip of the tongue is nothing but sweet and creamy, with a pleasing aroma of cardamom and coriander when it hits the palate. I found it to have a pleasantly lingering spice on the tongue, with the anise gently balancing out the pepper.

They had two lonely bags for sale on a shelf in the cafe. Yet when I checked their website, despite one article written about their chai in 2016 (when they still had three), I didn’t find any information about it. Nor did I find it for sale on the website, only coffee. So this particular local treat will sadly have to stay just that: local. But if you ever find yourself in either Portland or Vancouver and are a fan of traditional chai, keep this one in mind!