Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Meet Katey & Jon Gray Duck Chai Brewers / Real People Wednesdays

Good Morning Everyone!

I hope you are all having a wonderful week. I see you really like our last week's interview on Dr. Shumway.  I am very excited to introduce two close friends of mine that have created a product that is not only unique but extremely tasty. I currently work with Katey and Jon at Meritage. They are both extremely creative and driven individuals and I really hope you  enjoy getting to know them. Danielle and I will also be doing a giveaway of Gray Duck Chai . We will be starting a facebook page and we would love if you would follow us. Details about the giveaway will be detailed in our Friday post. If you are interested in purchasing their product just click the link above they have direct contact information along with all the locations their chai is available.

Happy Reading,


1. Tell us a little about yourselves? 

Katey- I began my culinary career in New York where I attended the Culinary Institute of America.  I Graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors degree in Culinary Arts Management.  After graduation I took a job at The Modern a restaurant in the Museum of Modern Art.  At the time the kitchen was lead by a chef named Gabriel Kreuther.  He had an amazing understanding of how to extract the most from every ingredient.  He had a passion for the science behind the art of food that I had never seen before.  His passion was infections.  I began to love choosing a particular ingredient or dish and learning it inside and out.  I think it's this love that makes me enjoy the brewing process so much.  Spices can be very fickle and illusive.  I minute or two too long in the pot and that beautiful fresh ginger flavor for example can just evaporate right into the air, or a fresh batch of ginger from a new origin can completely over power a batch if used in the same proportions as the week before. 

 The original idea and passion for chai came from me, but without Jon I think there is a good chance it would still just be tumbling around in my head.  Jon is a pusher.  By this I mean he wants to go, go, go.  Why wait for tomorrow, when you can start it today.  One day at Meritage I half heatedly told Jon about my idea for the business.  Jon went to Mississippi Market the next day and came to my house the next day and said we were starting recipe testing.  His enthusiasm for my idea and constant confidence in our goals for the company are the biggest driving force we have.  Jon sets large goals and thinks very large.  He is my balance while I'm toiling over the perfect amount of spice.
Jon's back ground is computer science which has been a great complement to my culinary background.  We know how to let the other one take the lead when it's not our area of expertise.  While in school in San Francisco Jon began working in fine dining.  He has learned about wine and food from some of the best sommeliers and chefs (so he's no slouch when it comes to the creative side either.  Jon has an amazing palate for tasting even the slightest difference in flavor from batch to batch.

2. How did you decide you wanted to work with chai? 

During my five years in Seattle cooking I developed a great appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into producing quality tea and coffee.  Chai became my go to drink.  I loved the warming sensation of the fresh ginger, clove and black pepper and the fragrant aromatics of the cardamom, anise and cinnamon.  After moving back to Minnesota I began searching for a coffee shop with great chai.  I found plenty of passionate coffee roasters but every single one was serving sub par syrupy sweet chai.  That's when I began brewing batch after batch of chai at home.  It became a bit of an obsession to learn to control all the variables of brewing the perfect cup.

3. Where did the name "gray duck chai" come from? 

Naming our company was pretty hard actually.  We wanted a name that gave a nod to being from Minnesota with out being to obvious or unmemorable.   Our co-worker Jenn at Meritage actually came up with the name Gray Duck Chai after we had played around with different names for about two months.  We loved it instantly!  Both Jon and I during our years living away from Minnesota were reminded on a regular basis that oh, haha you're from Minnesota, you say Duck Duck Gray Duck right.  It's Duck Duck Goose.  So for us the name represents our Minnesota pride.

4. What makes your chai unique?  

Chai originated in India in the Assam region.  The first recipes were can be found in ancient Ayurveda texted.  The lineup of ingredients in chai have an impressive number of medicinal properties.  Ginger and Cinnamon for example are great anti inflammatories,  clove and black tea both have high levels of anti-oxidants.  We use only organic Assam black tea in our chai.  This is both to keep with the tradition of chai's origin and also because it's malty character blends so well with dairy.   The thing about Gray Duck is were are not trying to necessarily be unique.  We want to replicate exactly what you would receive if you ordered a chai from a chai wallah's stand on the street in Mumbai.  Here in Minnesota that does make us unique in comparison to the chais most people have tried.  In the US people have been introduced to chai as a syrupy sweet dessert drink.  If tea wasn't in the name you wouldn't even know it was in there half the time.  For these people their first cup of a chai like ours can be surprising.

5. How have you grown throughout the Twin Cities in the past couple years? 

 We got our start selling our chai to coffee shops only using a returnable bottle system.  This was a great way to build up our following and introduce more people to a different type of chai.  Then about a year ago we introduced our smaller retail sized bottles.  These are now available at all of the co-ops in St.Paul and Minneapolis.  We also recently got our first account in Seattle, which hopefully is a sign of things to come.

6. What goes into the process of making your chai?  

Whole spices are first milled to the proper size for best extraction of flavor.  This is always done the day we brew.  Water is brought to a simmer first the spice and raw grated ginger are added.  Once the spices have steeped fully the temperature is reduced slightly before the tea is added.  This is done to prevent a bitter quality from developing.  We then remove both the tea and spice.  Organic cane sugar at the very end to bring out all of the flavor of the spice.  We then bottle our chai hot into brown glass bottles.  Keeping our chai away from light and oxygen before it reaches your cup are important in keeping the robustness of the tea and spice.

7. What specific spices are you working with?  

Cardamom-originally a large part of Indian cuisine because it is a natural meat preservative the have begun to study these qualities and initial studies have now shown it to slow cancer cell growth in the same way, Cinnamon- manages blood glucose levels for people with type 2 diabetes with only two grams per day, lowers cholesterol levels, Clove-they have the highest level of antioxidant of anything we consume.  Anti oxidants are measured by there orac value.  The orca value for 100grams of nutmeg is 300,000 Acai berries come in at 25,000 per 100grams to give you a comparison, Black Pepper-Anti inflammatory plus the outer layer helps your body break down fats, Star Anise-the spice contains shikimic acid is both anti bacterial and anti fungal.  The synthetic form of this acid is found in many over the counter cold and flu medicines., Indian Long Pepper-This spice is used in it's oil form to help heal wounds and prevent scarring, Allspice-This is actually a tiny dried berry.  It is high in both vitamin C and A, Nutmeg-Is a great liver and kidney detoxifier.  It has also been used in history as a tonic for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and stress, and Ginger-Anti inflammatory and anti tussive.  Helps with cold congestion and minimizes with discomfort from arthritis and sore muscles from the gym.

8. What else would you like our readers to know about your chai?  

We use only 100% organic ingredients

 Disclaimer: PRTLIVING (and all of those feature and interviewed) is limited to providing self-help education in natural health matters and advocating of a healthy lifestyle. If you have a medical problem, please seek the advice of your medical doctor.
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