BROOKSVILLE — Ruthie and Jared Ellis were growing organic vegetables in Brooksville with a friend, who gradually turned their interests to tea — Indian tea.
The Ellises were quickly taken with the ritual of tea making.
“It’s like high tea time in England,” Ruthie said.
In fact, the name of their little company — Chai Wallahs —means tea makers.
Chai wallahs, they learned, are everywhere in India, from busy urban street corners to hidden alleyways, at bus depots and railway platforms, along riversides and on footpaths.
The two soon were students of tea around the world, familiarizing themselves with everything from the Chaga mushroom tea in Russia, which is said to fight cancer, to the bland, high sugar African tea.
Their friend and Chai Wallahs’ co-founder, Leigh Tillman, now lives in Portland and helps market the tea in that city.
Ruthie said Chai Wallahs’ chai tea is very different than the powdered, sugary version often sold in coffee shops and restaurants.
Chai Wallahs’ spiced chai with assam black tea contains seven spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, ginger, cardamom, black tea and cloves.
They only sell their mushroom tea cup-by-cup at area farmers markets including the winter market inside.
Ruthie harvests the mushroom, which she said is medicinal, from yellow birch trees. She grinds it herself and then adds the remaining chai ingredients minus the assam black tea.
The spiced chai with assam black tea is available at more than 30 different retail locations, including the Blue Hill Co-op and The Maine Grind.
Preparation is simple. Bring water to a boil, simmer, and when it is ready add milk and honey.
Honey, they say, enhances the spice flavor.
Chai Wallahs gained wider exposure during their repeat appearances at the annual Common Ground Country Fair in Unity. In fact, the tea was voted “Best Beverage” at the 2011 fair.
The Ellises are available to do tea classes in private homes and also will prepare large quantities of teas for functions.