Chai Crash Course #1 - Tea
A quality tea is the foundation of a good Chai. Here's your 4-minute Tea crash course.
All tea comes from the leaves or stems of the Camellia sinensis plant, of which, there are several different varieties. Indian Assam (C. s. var. assamica) is native to Assam, a state in northeastern India, situated south of the eastern Himalayas. Only the buds and new leaves (flushes) - the top 1-2 inches of the plant - are picked during the growing season.
Broadly speaking, tea grades range from Orange Pekoe (OP) to Dust (or Fannings).
Dust is basically what's left over once all the good bits are picked out. They're broken up and usually sold in mass-produced tea bags. Because it's finer in texture, tea made with Dust releases more tannins than whole leaf tea, resulting in more bitter brews.
Orange Pekoe refers to leaves that are left long and intact, which produces a much milder and sophisticated flavour profile. These are generally expensive and sold in tea speciality stores as long-leaf premium tea.
For The Chai Villain's Sticky Chai Blend, OP leaves are lightly broken to produce a richer brew, whilst maintaining the integrity and cleanness of the tea. This is known as Broken Orange Pekoe and it's essentially the Goldilocks of tea. This results in a tea that is complex: rich, malty, tart and spicy, with wonderful heft and loads of character.
The quality is also dependent on which flush the leaves are from - the first flush being the first buds of the spring harvesting season. Just know that the flavour of the tea develops as you get later into the harvesting season: the first flush is delicate and astringent in flavour and the second flush is more rounded and fruity, and so on.
Like wine, tea is hugely affected by the terroir, or growing and production conditions of the estate. Having sampled teas from numerous producers, The Villain has selected tea from a HACCP and ACO-accredited Organic estate, because we want only the best going into our Sticky Chai Blend.
TL/DR? Watch this video for a simplified version:
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