Cold brew has certainly held its reign over Brooklyn coffee shops, but the latest contender for artisanal devotion could be something just less caffeinated — chai.
More specifically, masala chai: a tea brew that dates back some 5,000 years. The black tea blend, which commonly includes grated ginger, black pepper and cardamom, has quickly become popular thanks to the proliferation of Starbucks’ “chai tea” (a redundant phrase since “chai” means “tea” in Hindi) lattes. But, of course, a local version is bound to pop up — we are in New York.
Enter Dona Chai, a chai concentrate that’s brewed and bottled in Brooklyn using classic spices like cinnamon, cardamom, clove and black peppercorn, along with modern updates like vanilla bean and cold-pressed ginger juice. “Ginger is a popular ingredient in chai but it’s usually ground,” Dain Evans of Dona Chai says. “Amy Rothstein, the founder, noticed that when you use fresh cold-pressed ginger juice, it retains the spiciness of the ginger… it’s a really special ingredient.”
Rothstein, who graduated from NYU’s graduate program in food studies, noticed that while local coffee was easily found, the market was lacking a good source of quality chai. After three months of experimenting with different recipes and trying different types of chai from various regions of India, they landed on a slightly sweet, spicy and modernized version.
The result is easily adaptable to not just coffee-esque drinks, but also cocktails, ice cream, scones and French toast. You could even mix a dash in with your homemade cold brew.
Dona Chai with Blood Orange and Bourbon
Makes 1 drink
1½ oz. bourbon
1 oz. Dona Chai
1 oz. juice from blood orange
2 dashes bitters
Combine bourbon, Dona Chai, blood orange juice and bitters. Pour into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with blood orange peel.
Dona Chai Vanilla Bourbon Affogato With Allspice Dram Whipped Cream
Makes 1 affogato
For the affogato:
1 scoop bourbon vanilla ice cream by Steve’s Ice Cream
2 oz. Dona Chai
2 oz. milk
1 dollop allspice dram whipped cream
Dash of bourbon (optional)
Steam Dona Chai with milk, then add bourbon (if using). Place one scoop ice cream into a cup and top with allspice dram whipped cream (recipe below). Pour chai over ice cream and garnish with turbinado sugar.
For the whipped cream:
1 pint heavy cream
1 ½ tablespoon powdered sugar
⅓ cup allspice dram
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
Whip cream, sugar and vanilla bean to soft peaks. Add allspice dram and continue to whip to firm peaks.
Dona Chai-Glazed Currant Scones
For the scones:
2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) ice cold unsalted butter
½ cup currants
¾ cup buttermilk
1 large egg yolk
1½ teaspoons orange zest
For the chai glaze:
1½ cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons Dona Chai
Mix powdered sugar and chai until smooth.
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, sift together flour, ¼ cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Grate butter into flour mixture and toss together with a fork. Add currants. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg yolk and orange zest. Slowly pour buttermilk mixture into flour mixture, mixing just until the dough comes together.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Roll out dough into a one-inch-thick square and cut into two-inch pieces. Place pieces two inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
Bake until golden brown, fifteen to eighteen minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let scones cool completely.
Once cooled, cover with Dona Chai glaze.
Dona Chai French Toast
1 cup Dona Chai
½ cup whole milk
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
6 slices challah (one-inch-thick)
4½ tablespoons unsalted butter
Maple syrup, to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Whisk together Dona Chai, milk, eggs, sugar and salt in a bowl. Pour into a sheet pan, then add bread and soak until bread has absorbed liquid.
Heat 1 ½ tablespoon butter in a twelve-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
Transfer bread slices to skillet and cook, turning once, until slightly puffed and golden brown. Place on a large baking sheet. Repeat this process until each of the bread slices has been seared, adding 1 ½ tablespoon butter between batches.
Finish in the oven. Toast should be golden and firm to the touch, about eight minutes. Serve immediately.