My grandmother's wise words, "Always ask questions," have helped grow my inquisitive nature. Far from nosy, my lingering inner question-mark has rather pushed me to seek out opportunities. This past June at the glorious Shake Shack opening party in Philadelphia, a friend introduced me to the infamous restauranteur, Danny Meyer. While briefly talking tea (their fresh-brewed iced tea is a custom Harney & Sons blend), my mind made a quick jump to milkshakes. I asked Mr. Meyer if he had ever considered adding a tea-infused milkshake to his seasonal sweet menu. He seemed genuinely intrigued. Not quite sure what might come of this conversation, I was satisfied with simply meeting a culinary icon.
To my surprise, I received an email the very next day from Shake Shack's culinary manager, Mark Rosati. A few rounds of emails, meetings and tastings later, my chai tea concentrate (for a chai tea milkshake) was approved and slated to launch as a limited-edition treat on their menu at the Philadelphia location. Needless to say I was ecstatic and jumping for joy. But let's step back to the concentrate for a second.
Set in a faint chestnut hue, the concentrate cooled until being strained of its spices with a generous piece of cheesecloth. I mixed a bit into a cup of resteeped assam tea and it suddenly sung with a gently sweet spice that warmed me to the core. But then it was time for the real test. With a pint of Shake Shack vanilla custard and pouch of their rich chocolate sauce in the freezer and fridge, I was ready to mix. The sweet vanilla custard was the perfect base for the chai spices. The chocolate sauce added an indulgent richness and balanced the spicy bite. Fortunately for me, Mark (the culinary manager) agreed. I handed over my recipe and hoped that the Sansom street Shake Shack team and customers would like it as much as I did.
A month or so later, I anxiously raced to the Shack to see the black and white chai tea milkshake on the "Specials" chalkboard. I jumped for joy when I discovered that they planned to keep it on the menu for a week longer than originally slated. I was overjoyed to share my concentrate creation with the chai lovers in the City of Brotherly Love.
Above all, I must express my heartfelt thanks to the my family and friends for their support as they indulged in a ridiculous amount of chai milkshakes in just a two week span (even on diets and with lactose intolerance-that's friendship). And then there's the incredibly kind managers at the Sansom Street Shake Shack who carefully crafed the concentrate (yes they simmered it for 6 hours on site). The entire team was so genuinely kind.
And last but definitely not least, I must express sincere gratitude to Danny Meyer for providing me with such a wonderful opportunity, and to Mark Rosati for the support, guidance and enthusiasm (p.s. if you ever get a chance to meet him, you must ask about what his job entails. It's incredibly interesting). I'm thrilled to see that Shake Shack wholeheartedly welcomes collaboration. It warms my heart to know that there are people and businesses out there that care to support their local community and help share an individual's passion. I raise my chai tea milkshake to you (and the readers who have finished this lengthy post).