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February 18, 2006

Ugly Mug

I was in Santa Cruz for a little while today. Soquel, actually. On the way we stopped to pick up a chai. The thing about Santa Cruz is, almost anywhere you stop is going to be a great place with great chai.

First we stopped at Dharma's but the line was too long and we were in a hurry. (Story about Dharms follows). (Yes I know Dharmas is in Capitola.)

Then we stopped at The Ugly Mug in Soquel. I hadn't been there before. What a great place! Full of people chatting, reading, computing... And one of the best, peppery chais I've had. Here's their website: Corporate Coffee Still Sucks. I recommend a visit.

Continue reading "Ugly Mug" »

February 10, 2006

Chai

I'm from Santa Cruz, which might as well be called "chai-town" (apologies to Chicago). There are probably more places that serve chai, and more varieties of chai in Santa Cruz than anywhere outside of India. There are varieties of the Starbucks-like commercial sweet chai, and there are great peppery chais like Nub Chai.

I drink a very, very spicy, peppery "Masala Chai" that I get in a plastic bag from a local Indian grocery store/fast food place named DeeDee's. It is a powder containing all the spices but not the tea itself intended for mixing into your own cup of tea. This is great for decaf drinkers. I think they make the powder themselves. The first time I bought it the woman at the counter told me "only put a little bit in! You will burn your mouth! Only 1/4 teaspoon!"

To make this chai I start with a cup of black tea, regular or decaf. I add 1/4 teaspoon (no more!) of the chai powder. I'm not a milk-drinker so I fill a little more than 1/4 of the cup with soy milk, and a teaspoon or two of honey. Then I heat it in the microwave because the soy milk cools it down. The result is very good, rich, satisfying. And spicy hot!

The kind of soy milk I use is very important, for this and other teas. I use Vitasoy Classic Original because it has a great taste and a very rich texture, almost like cream. Note that some marketing genius at Vitasoy recently renamed their products, and renamed their regular soy milk as "Creamy Original." Well don't buy it, it is not creamy at all. It took some time for me to learn that the older, creamy soy milk is still available, and has been renamed "Classic Original." Look for Classic Original.

I'd like to know what your favorite chai is.

February 1, 2006

Caffeine-no-more

From Anne -

I gave up caffeine about a year ago, after I had anxiety problems and ended up in the emergency room thinking I was having a heart attack. The state of the world has most to do with it, but I've found that caffeine was a significant component. I miss good black tea the most.

Because of my tea addiction, which had a ritual component to it (my husband's family is English), I've spent a lot of time and money trying to find truly good decaffeinated black tea. I have failed. Admittedly, the tea I used to drink was sort of the espresso of tea: an Irish blend called Lyons Gold. It made a very assertive, malty, brisk cup of tea. Non tea-drinkers who came to our house and were offered a cuppa would be served Lyons steeped perhaps 3 minutes (we always went for 5), with milk and no sugar unless they requested it. We made quite a few converts. "Oh, so THIS is what tea is supposed to be like!" Restaurants who bring you a metal pot of hot water and a separate tea bag are committing a crime against good tea-brewing practices. But that's another story.

Continue reading "Caffeine-no-more" »


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