Chai Saturdays…those were the best! Free delicious chai to enjoy while we all warmed up with each other over lively conversations. Must have been all that ginger and cardamom that made our community bonding so spicy and good. “It’s all good” was one of the favorite sayings of a former YHC yoga teacher. Well, there is another less pleasant saying about the ephemeral nature of life: All good things come to an end. Even chai Saturdays? Really?!
No, I just wanted to get your attention is all. Tricky writers are full of surprises. My next surprise is this spicy and sweet story about the history of how chai Saturdays came to be at YHC. The creative and collaborative dance of Regina Ginger and Bob Cardamom was going strong even before YHC was born. When two people in a couple have their YHC brand of spicy synergy and sweet symbiosis, the sky is the limit with what they can create together. You see, I assumed that chai Saturdays were “all Regina.” Not so!
The year is 1995. The place is Mount Madonna Center (MMC) in Watsonville, California. The aura is groovy. The aroma is alluring. The flavor is divinely delicious. The yoga is…not Bikram. Regina and Bob had been going to MMC about once per month for three-day weekends for years. Although they were both loyal coffee drinkers (and still are), the uniquely strong but soft experience of drinking chai subtly worked its way straight to their hearts. Much like how YHC became our favorite place to visit on Saturdays. Connecting the dots yet? Regina notes nostalgically that “it was the smell, warmth, spices, and healing properties” of chai that got her hooked on MMC chai. Sounds like she and Bob fell in love with hot yoga’s similarly enchanting experience: warmth, healing properties, spices…well, maybe not the smell of a super sweaty Bikram class…except at YHC where the air is kept fresh through a complex filtration and exhaust system. I digress. Back to aromatic chai.
Well, Bob really got into the chai experience after a while and encouraged Regina to ask the cooks at MMC to give her the recipe so the MMC chai experience could be brought home. Ever eager to accept a challenge, Regina marched over, doing a few cartwheels on the way, and she asked one of the cooks for the chai recipe. After waiting for a bit, Regina was presented with a hand-written recipe for the perfect MMC chai. (You see the groovy folks at MMC are not tainted by intellectual property or other proprietary concerns.) Jai ho!!!!! Ganesh removed all obstacles. Regina had the coveted recipe for chai in her eager hands. The thing was…the recipe was for a batch of chai for…300 people! Yes, three hundred people. Holy black pepper and masala! How on earth could Regina and Bob effectively adjust the perfect MMC chai recipe to be equally perfect for five people?
Regina jests, “Bob did the math.” Actually, Bob did waaaaay more than just math. According to Regina, “Bob made the MMC chai at home better than I did because he’s a by-the-book cook, and I am a by-the-feel cook.” I would speculate that it was the synergy and collaboration (and light-hearted arguing) of Regina Ginger and Bob Cardamom that led to the perfection of small batches of chai in their cozy home kitchen. Om to the lab of home. So how did the much-loved homemade chai make its way to YHC?
One thermos at a time! Bob recalls, “Regina, wanted to share this amazingly delicious chai with her yoga students…at first, she brought one of her personal thermoses of chai to share with YHC students.” (Understatement of the year: the chai was well-received.) Bob continues, “After a few months, Regina was bringing in several thermoses: one for those who wanted decaf chai, another for those who wanted soy milk chai...she eventually went to a restaurant supply store and bought two 5-gallon pots to make larger quantities.” Regina was making several different customized batches of chai every Friday night in her cozy home kitchen. And literally giving it away for free. She still does. Talk about a labor of love! Hey, cardamom ain’t cheap honey; neither is honey, honey.
Speaking of cardamom, our honey Regina shared a story of one of those rare and challenging times when she woke up and realized that she didn’t have enough cardamom to make the chai taste just right. “One very early Saturday morning, I realized I only had two ounces of cardamom pods and that was definitely not going to be enough…so I had the idea to grind up the pods,” Regina remembers. That was a “necessity is the mother of invention” moment for sure. Well, if “necessity is the mother of invention,” then Regina and Bob are the mother and father of our beloved Saturday “chai convention.” If it weren’t for the loving and lively collaboration of these two, YHC wouldn’t exist. And Saturdays would be less sweet, warm, spicy, and delightful without chai. Jai ho to our spicy duo of Regina Ginger and Bob Cardamom.
Oh yeah, one last thing you might have been wondering about—the saucy subtitle of this article. As we all may know, Regina rarely swears. She saves the zingers and f-bombs for just the right occasion. Well, when YHC was in the early building phase of its expansion and all that was visible was the framing, Regina and Bob were showing off the new space being created to a long-time YHC yoga student and a good friend. As they were discussing where the studios were going to be built, the friend was wondering what was going to be built in a particular area (the current kitchen). When Regina and Bob mentioned that a full-sized kitchen would be put there, the friend remarked amusingly, “Building a kitchen of that size would not be the most lucrative idea since it’s not a revenue-producing space.” Bob knew better since he subscribes to the (paraphrased) adage, “happy wife, happy business.” Bob knew that once Regina had her own space to do what makes her happy, the good vibes would spill over (pun intended) into the business. And so, the story goes; we now have an on-site kitchen where Regina prepares her world-famous chai and her life-saving cookies* (*that’s a true story for another time). Sometimes when Regina Ginger is feeling especially warm, spicy, and “aromatic,” she has been known to spontaneously and snarkily snap, “Non-revenue-producing, my ass!” That’s our Regina. Jai ho! Chai ho!