There is a vicious rumor going around that all I drink is coffee. Vicious and untrue, I assure you. There are three drinks that I would climb over you and your grandmother to get my hands on, and only one of them is coffee. Granted, the second might be considered a distant cousin of coffee, but…anyway. They are, in order of how likely I am to go through you to get at them: Thai coffee, chai (especially iced) and mango lasse.
In short, the first is incredibly strong coffee mixed with spices, a nice helping of cream and a formidable amount of sugar and drinking it is like having your adrenal gland squeezed by God. The third is basically a yogurt and mango smoothie and is freaking delicious. But the second? The chai? Ah, yes, that is something special.
Basically, chai is black tea that involves a number of other spices. The spices vary depending on where it’s coming from and whatnot, but I’m most familiar with either Oregon Chai (and I couldn’t find a list of their ingredients) and Tazo Chai (which is what Starbucks uses to make their chai lattes). The Tazo comes with black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and star anise. And I’m sorry, but just saying “Spices” in an ingredients list is lame.
Anyway, all of that to say: I was pleased to see that Haagen-Dazs, purveyor of pints of frozen creamy crack, were tackling the chai latte with their Limited Edition Sweet Chai Latte.
[ad#longpost]You might ask yourself: “Self, what is the difference between chai and chai latte?” Technically, it seems to be that you’re getting a latte with the concentrated chai tea stuffs rather than espresso. But I can’t tell much difference between that and just mixing up some Oregon Chai at my house. Then again, imagine for a moment what shape my tastebuds must be in. Okay, moment’s passed–STOP.
Anyway, to the ice cream at hand: it’s eerie how well Haagen-Dazs has nailed this. I mean just nailed it. You get the sweetness (perhaps a bit more sweet than I am used to in regular chai latte, but more on this in a moment), an on-rush of spices and then the cream. It’s…pretty damn fantastic, actually. You get cinnamon, you get cloves, you get cardamom…all of it with a cream and black tea foundation.
And here’s the fun bit: when I was looking for the ingredients, I noticed tasting notes on the side. Tasting notes! Top notes and finish notes for ice cream? When did these show up? Or have they always been there on Haagen-Dazs containers and I’ve just been in a sugar coma from eating the stuff to notice? The only thing I really missed, comparing my own notes to the tasting notes is…anise. Proving I have no idea what it tastes like, and it probably doesn’t matter.
Also nice about this is that the ingredients list doesn’t read like a science experiment. It is “all natural,” after all. “Cream, skim milk, sugar, egg yolks, natural black tea flavor, vanilla beans, tea, spices [lame], honey.” Ah, yes, that explains the extra bit of sweetness there. Honey leads the charge and the cream finishes it out.
If you are a fan of any version of chai, I would advise you to give this a spin. It nails the flavor but in an ice cream way so you don’t wonder why you don’t just mix some up and skip the scooping it out of a pint business. Oh, and one last thing? The other thing on the side of the container? “Made with Oregon Chai.” No wonder they just said “Spices.” It’s still lame, though. Delicious, with a ribbon of lame transparency.
What does lame transparency taste like? Anise.
Given how much I, too, love chai, I shall try this immediately!
If you’ve ever tried Ouzo, or a mixed herb-liquor, you know anise. It’s a bit like peppermint, but a smoother, silkier sting, that takes some getting used to.