As someone who finds great joy in mixing a lot of ingredients, I've loved this Hafiz verse from To Build a Swing since I first read it:I'm not a coffee drinker. I've grown it, picked it, processed it, and packaged it. I like the fragrance, but not the flavor. 8 years ago, a friend introduced me to his friend's shop on our way to the plant markets in Half Moon Bay for what he proclaimed was "the best chai" I'd ever drink. It was the first chai I had ever tried. It was sweet and creamy. I sipped it and decided I could drink a chai every now and then- mostly as an option if a friend wanted to get together to have coffee. Starbucks' chai lattes were never a good measure of whether I liked chai. Their chai is always inconsistent and mostly diluted or overly sweet. I'd buy the Oregon Chai mix to mix it stronger at home, but still...I could take or leave a cup of chai.
Then one day I went to the local coffee shop and was served Bhakti Chai, made by a Colorado company that was only distributing in Colorado at the time. It has a fiery spice that warms the body with heavy ginger, black pepper, cardamom, clove, and fennel. I'm not one to buy a $3.50 drink very often, but I could buy a jar of the concentrate at a retailer 35miles away. I was almost out of my second $12 jar of concentrate when my sister sent me the link to a recipe to make my own spicy chai. I'd save money. I wouldn't have to make a special trip or wait a week or two between jars of concentrate.
I gathered jars of spices and loaded the black tea base with all of the spices...and then added more spices...and then added way more ginger...and more ginger...and more black pepper. It wasn't even close enough to pass it off as a placeholder for the drink that I started craving Saturday mornings. I don't know, there's something about Bhakti Chai. Maybe it's the Hafiz poem they used to print on the back of their label that makes me connect even more to their chai...and to myself. Some things are worth all the tea in China.