A Cooler Coke: Taylor's Tonics Chai Cola
Curse you, Cost Plus World Market.
I have sort of a hate-hate relationship with Cost Plus World Market. I hate that my wife seems physically incapable of not buying their crap, and I hate that I secretly like most of it. Don't tell her I said that. Either part, really, but mostly the part about me liking stuff. That would totally ruin the curmudgeon thing I'm going for.
At any rate, I find myself dragged there semi-regularly, to shop for odd textiles, wooden toys for our nieces and nephews (not to mention our own kids), and the occasional random food item. My wife is fond of bringing home odd candies, chips from foreign lands, and tins of ill-advised flavored coffee. Me, I go straight for the sodas.
Cost Plus is one of the few places where you can never find a Coke, but always find a handful of esoteric cola variants. From "classics" you'd thought terminally discontinued, to newer experiments almost certain to be discontinued soon, there's always something interesting. The last time we were there, this one caught my eye.
I'm a bit of a whore for chai, you see. Ever since my days covering lunch breaks at the Barnes and Noble Cafe inside the Alabama Theater Bookstop, drinking dirty chai lattes and reading Neal Stephenson novels, I've had a thing for the admittedly bastardized cousins of the Indian beverage. I order them semi-regularly still, relishing the spicy, sweet, and soothing blend of tea, aromatics, and creamy milk.
I'd never had a chai cola before (dork note: this isn't actually a cola, in my book, nor are most others, as it contains no kola nut), so I was eager to crack this open. It's pretty much exactly what I wanted it to be, even though I wasn't really sure what that meant before trying it. It's got chai back on my brain in a bad way. I'm experimenting with chai extracts and syrups in cocktails, thinking about chai flavors in baked goods, and even considering some chai grill rub permutations.
As far as the soda is concerned, it smells like a lightly spiced cream soda, with plenty of vanilla, cloves, black tea, and just a hint of ginger. The flavor is the same, coming across as very saturated, yet not overly aggressive. It's only lightly sweet, with the clean flavor of cane sugar. Somehow, it manages to be light and refreshing, despite relatively strong, warming flavors.
While I wouldn't want to drink this everyday, I can certainly see having occasional cravings. Taylor's Tonics make a few other intriguing soda flavors I'm interested in trying. Perhaps it's time for another visit to Cost Plus. I'll let the wife think it was her idea.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.