Conspicuous Consumption: Chai Machines

My Christmas haul was hit and miss this year with a few genuine surprises--a couple of them actually pleasant! In keeping with the whole point of the season I'm fully embracing the "what you didn't get, you get for yourself" can-do spirit and for me that means something to take my chai addiction to a whole new level.

I was watching some gadget show on either DIY, STYLE or HGTV and they featured this contraption that you pour your milk into (in my case Silk Vanilla Soy) and your powdered or liquid drink mix and it'll whip up a tasty half-assed cafe version for mere pennies. I must have mentioned it like a million times, but alas, it did not find its way under the dried out Christmas tree which is good because I did some research...

This Back to Basics Cocoa-Latte Hot Drink Maker is what started this whole thing. I had images of pouring my chai stuff and milk into the machine right before taking the dog for her morning walk and coming back to almost-like Starbucks chai. Then I read the reviews and they all mentioned that it was hard to clean and made a big deal about all the wonderful froth it whips up. I'm not a fan of froth. Frankly, I can do without it. So, disappointed, I resumed my search. (About $35, in amazon and various other sites)

This pitcher machine by Froth Au Lait is essentially like the Back to Basics but had better reviews (and a heftier price of just under $50) but the same drawback that it is an all in one unit which would make cleaning out burnt soy milk a pain in the neck. It was a strong maybe, but just thinking about walking into the kitchen and being confronted with a dirty machine I can't shove in the dishwasher put a kibosh on this unit, too.

When I came upon this dandy double chamber unit from Capresso, I thought my yearnings were answered. It combines hot water (which Starbucks and other cafes use to steam the milk) to make that just so mix I've been trying to approximate at home with no success since I, uh, don't incorporate any steam into my chai. The Capresso retails for $100 (it's $70ish on amazon) but has as almost as many one star reviews as it does five. And again, people went off on the frothing, either mounds of froth or none. But what I did realize is I wanted something simple and that used steam.

Currently, I just pour almost equal amounts of Tazo Chai concentrate and soy milk into a double walled 14 oz glass I picked up from William Sonoma and stick it in the microwave for 2 minutes and 10 seconds, fast and easy and just kind of blah. So I looked and looked and looked and finally found what I was looking for...

This stovetop stainless steel milk steamer ($63 via works by heating water which it then releases at a touch of a button to heat the milk, in a pitcher ($9 for the 12 ounce size) and will froth or not froth according to how the pitcher is moved up or down and then I'll have to pour the stuff into my glass and enjoy. It's a multi-step process that will include chilling the pitcher but I'm willing to put a little more thought and effort into my cherished morning routine. I also discovered that I can buy chai syrup, it's what Starbucks uses from the same site, but I have one last Tazo carton and the two huge tins of powdered chai mix I picked up at Smart & Final to get through before I can justify buying anymore chai crack...I mean crap.

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