Review — Rooibos Chai by Harney & Sons

Name: Rooibos Chai

Brand: Harney & Sons

Type: Herbal tisane, rooibos

Form: Silken tea sachet (loose leaf available)

Review: Spiced chai lovers often find themselves in a bind: Hot, spicy chai is a wonderfully soothing drink, but tea’s caffeine content can make it inappropriate for nighttime swigging. Harney & Sons’ Rooibos Chai blends traditional chai spices with caffeine-free rooibos, helping chai partisans to sidestep the threat of sleepless nights while still enjoying a hot cup of the comforting brew.

The dry leaf smells strongly of cardamom, while this tisane also includes cinnamon and clove, the cardamom definitely dominates the blend. It infuses to a dark red liquor, with the cardamom more pronounced than the other flavors. The flavor of this blend is somewhat austere: Harney & Sons apparently wants to leave the option of sweetening the chai up to the drinker. If you need or want your chai to be sweet, you will have to add honey, sugar, or another sweetener on your own. Of course, this also allows you to control how sweet your chai is: As I prefer my chai unsweetened, or at least barely sweetened, I count the lack of sweetness in this blend to be a plus.

Preparation Tips: Normally I would tell readers not to worry about oversteeping, as that just can’t happen with rooibos (the water gets cold before the tisane’s taste is negatively affected). But the cardamom content in this chai is plenty strong, and a too-long steep can result in a bitter and overly pungent brew. I’d suggest a steep time of 4-5 minutes, but don’t be afraid to tip a spoon in mid-steep to help determine when to pull the teabag. Try experimenting with both dairy and non-dairy milks in this chai. I have found that good-quality almond milk meshes really well with chai: The slight bitterness of the almonds pairs great with chai spices.

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