Chai Concentrates are awful
To understand why I think Chai Concentrates, which seem to be all the rage these days, are awful, we need to first understand the science behind flavour. We've covered this first part previously, but to recap:
Remember that flavour is part taste, mostly smell. There are 3 families of aroma compounds that contribute to flavour.
1. Terpenes (fresh, pine, citrus, floral) are the most volatile of the compounds which means they are readily boiled off when exposed to heat.
2. Phenolics (woody, warm, sweet, anise) contain a water molecule and therefore tend to be more water-soluble, which is why this ends up being the prominent flavour in Chai.
3. Pungent flavours are actually a feeling of irritation that verges on pain, and induces temporary inflammation on the mouth.
High temperature makes these volatile chemicals more volatile, so it literally unlocks the door and lets all the aromas fly out.
Now let's talk about how Chai concentrates are made. Tea and spices are steeped in hot water to draw out all their flavour. Once infused, the tea and spices are strained out and the resulting liquid is boiled for an extended period of time until it is reduced to a concentrate. These Chai companies then tell you to mix that in with steamed milk/mylk and voila, Chai.
Chai concentrates lack the complexity and depth of flavour you would otherwise get in a brewed Masala Chai. Here are 3 reasons why:
1. You will get no fresh, pine, citrus or floral notes because all the Terpenes (the most volatile of aroma compounds) are boiled off with the reduction of the liquid.
2. Most aroma chemicals are more similar to oils and fats than they are to water. They infuse better in oils, fats, acids and alcohols than they do in water. Steeping your Chai blend in a liquid that contains fat, such as dairy or soy milk (as you do with a loose leaf or Sticky Chai Blend) draws out a greater variety of aroma molecules than you do with water. Chai Concentrates are made with water as the base. Phenolics contain a water molecule and therefore tend to be more water-soluble, which is why Phenolic aromas end up being the prominent flavour, resulting in a Chai that lacks depth or complexity.
3. Once aroma molecules have been extracted, they begin to evaporate or react with oxygen and their original flavour is transformed. They alter into a variety of other chemicals and become more subdued. Tea is best drunk fresh, or its aroma dissipates and their Phenolic compounds react with the dissolved oxygen, causing it to turn astringent. Now think about how long that Chai Concentrate has been sitting there on the shelf... and how much you paid for it.
This is why we recommend doing a fast infusion. Don't worry - we've packed enough spice and roasted them beforehand so that you to get maximum flavour out of a fast infusion. Bring your Chai up to a boil on medium-high heat, kill the heat immediately, and infuse for 4 minutes.
TL/DR? Watch this video. And please share this important info with your friends. This is a matter of life and death (if life and death depended on Chai).