How did we discover chai in urban America? I assume that it is not as popular in rural America, but perhaps I do my country compatriots a disservice. I think the gestalt of chai probably owes itself to the confluence of the popularity of Indian cuisine and that of coffee drinks. I had Indian food for the first time in Portland, OR, over 10 years ago and chai for the first time ... I do not recall. But it has been a love story. There are a couple of varieties that are quite good in cafes: Morning Glory and the mix at my local place, Javasti, which makes its own. Oregon Chai is not good - I find it cloying. A delicious chai should be assertive, not saccharine and submissive.
I try to make chai at home. I have a decent recipe, but I really need to tinker to make it better. It has the right amount of ginger - about 1in.x1in., but needs more pepper, cinnamon, and probably an adjustment to the tea itself.
I use whole milk in my chai because that's what you have in your house when you have a toddler. It feels decadent and strange, that first glass of whole milk after years of skim. I remember when we switched to nonfat as a kid - how disgusting, thin, and tasteless it was. I've since changed my philosophy of fat and don't know that I will go back to skim. Maybe I will dial it down to 2% milk, but the full fat Greek yogurt definitely stays!
Funny that 80s obsession with fat free. The carry-over is that no one eats full fat dairy much anymore, and kids are switched to low fat pretty early. I realized this when my 6th graders read a book that referenced the skin that forms on the top of hot chocolate. The character in the book spoke of taking a sip such that he could remove the skin without having it stick to the lip, then chin, leaving you screaming in pain as you try to get the sticky hot mass off. My students asked what the "skin" was. I looked at their incredulous faces as I explained that full fat milk will form a skin when heated - haven't they seen this? No? Really?
I said to a co-worker once, "Fat doesn't make you fat." He thought I was being ironic. I've been doing so much reading about food in the past several years, though, that that seems to be true. It's simple sugars that make you fat, unhealthy, diabetic, and so on. Back in the 80s, the nonfat crazy logic said that I could eat a box of fat free cookies while you drank a glass of whole milk and I would be skinnier. That hasn't played out, however. The opposite seems to be true because not all calories are created equal. So I will stick to full fat dairy products and work at getting off the cookie addiction instead.