We're looking to move away from using our espresso machine to steam chai. Currently, we fill a steaming pitcher half full with a chai concentrate, and the other half with milk and steam this concoction on our Simonelli. What are some other methods of preparing a chai latte? I dislike the idea of having a microwave near our espresso bar, but adding steamed milk to a refridgerated concentrate doesn't seem to produce the quality beverage we're looking for. Any suggestions?
And while we're at it, does anyone having anything to say concerning steaming non-milk products on espresso machines?
Is there a particular aspect of your current beverage that you feel is lacking?
I've had some very good chai made using this method, including a tea house that used a stand-alone milk steamer to heat the milk+water+loose tea+spice masala mixture before steeping and straining out the solids. Housemade concentrates are a great approach as well. Perhaps you may want to revisit your choice of chai concentrate instead?
On the other question, I've seen no issues when the wand was used to steam sugary liquids so long as proper wand technique is used. Purge before steaming, remove the wand promptly, wipe the wand immediately after steaming, and purge again after. Soak the tip in hot water periodically throughout the day to remove any buildup inside the tip. If you think about it, milk is as bad or worse than anything else you might steam with your wand - it contains sugars, fats, and proteins, and is a potentially-hazardous food product to boot. Train your baristas well and don't worry about it.
First, check to see if the concentrate actually needs to be refrigerated throughout the day/shift. It could be like mocha and be okay to sit on the counter during service (with day dots or proper rotation, etc).
Or, if it's a mix you make yourself and then refrigerate, try making it double strong, then adding hot water to whatever you portion out for your drink before making the latte (that's how our favorite "coffee" shop with the siren logo does it...)
If neither of those work, I think your answer is going to depend on how many chai lattes you're selling per hour. If it's less than ten or so per hour, you could heat the chai concentrate on an induction burner and then add it to the milk. More than ten, you might want to think about keeping an airpot of it near the espresso bar so you can dispense the warm chai into the cup, then add milk.
If either of those solutions doesn't work with your bar setup/workflow, it might be time for a taste test to try a chai concentrate that can sit on the counter, or maybe even a powder. We don't have chai at the shop where I work, but weirdly my favorite chais have all been from powders...
Hope this helps! It's a good move, not steaming it with your wand anymore :)
My shop has had great success with Big Train Spiced Chai, which is a powdered concentrate. Basically you add a certain amount of powder to the cup; steam your milk just as you would for a latte, pour in about 1/2, stir vigorously, then add the remaining milk (you can even pour latte art on top, although it has to be simplified since it won't take quite the same form in chai). We have tried various chai mixes and concentrates, and the Big Train is by far the best we've used and our customers love it. (Big Train's other stuff, however, like frappe mixes and such, generally are terrible.) The only problem with this is that, for iced versions, you essentially have to steam milk and make a hot one, then ice it down in a shaker before serving -- there's no good way to mix it cold. But we've found that particular problem worth it (and we go through at least six 5-lb bags of this stuff per week).
I agree With Shepherd, I prefer a powdered chai, and big train is one of the best I've found (it is what they use in Nordstrom's e-bar, so you can go taste it for yourself). As far as making it iced, you simply add enough hot water from your coffee brewer to the chai powder at the bottom of the cup to make a paste, and then it will blend into cold milk just fine, and it helps with the consistancy if you make a blended chai.
As far as steaming non-milk products, I've never had a problem. I steam flavor syrups into milk, I steam apple juice and mix chai into it for a delicious apple "chaider" (it gets even tastier if you add 1883 cranberry). I steam almond milk, soy milk, etc too. So long as you purge your wand before and after every drink and wipe it down after steaming, and deep clean it at least once a day you will be fine.
Preferring and using powdered instant chai, might as well start using instant coffee. Yeah, it is the same comparison an authentic delicious Masala Chai versus powdered crap...
When it comes to using the steam wand for chai I'm with Brady. Works great and no problems when proper steam wand usage employed.
My family's shop sold Big Train chai. We'd dissolve the powder in half a cup of hot water, top with steamed milk, and sprinkle a little cinnamon on top. We had customers drive from some distance to get it - which I found really puzzling, because it was exactly the same product used in every other independent shop in town. I chalked it up to the properly steamed milk and the extra cinnamon kick.
Yes, it is a very popular product that I do think is one of their best. It wasn't until I tried developing our own housemade recipe that I started to understand why. When tasted side-by-side against it, all of my initial attempts tasted thin, lacking, and overly spicy. Looking at the label I realized that my attempts had far less fat and sugar than the Big Train, and way more spices. So essentially, what Big Train chai delivers is a very simple warm spice profile with lots of fat and sugar in a convenient-to-use format. Once I bumped fat and sugar levels in my experimental recipe and pared down the spice blend a bit I was able to come closer, and get results I was happy with.
I do recommend trying to make your own chai. There is good potential for a better quality AND more unique product, as well as substantial cost-savings. Try a very concentrated syrup that can be combined with whole milk.
So, Brady, what's your recipe (roughly... not asking for trade secrets!) for this mix?