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the masterchef behind the tiger purrr chai recipe

Mark jensen
The masterchef behind the tiger purrr chai recipe – Mark Jensen

“First and foremost whatever I create needs to be delicious. But beyond that I always want to create something that will resonate with people; that will make them feel like they are part of something special.”

- Mark Jensen

At Tiger Purrr we present to the world a chai like no other. A sophisticated chai, crafted by Mark Jensen, the taste-maker and executive chef behind Red Lantern, the most awarded Vietnamese restaurant in the world.

Mark returned to the origins of chai in Asia to conceive a chai recipe steeped in tradition. Using the best quality spices and CTC (cut, tear and curl) grade tea from around the world, Jensen spent months crafting a recipe only a master could create.

His recipe; combining Assam tea, Szechuan pepper, fennel, cardamom, clove, cinnamon and angelica root, creates a chai experience of restrained elegance. The recipe is designed to not only have a delectable flavour, but also provide a slow-release charge to support stamina. Imbuing a feeling of euphoria and inspiring outliers of the world to go out and create.

Tiger Purrr chai ingredients of Assam tea, Szechuan pepper, fennel, cardamom, clove, cinnamon and angelica root

As a chef, Mark has led the debate on ethical cooking and responsible sourcing. His best selling cookbook The Urban Cook, Cooking and Eating for a Sustainable Future helped set a standard for the industry. Mark applies his same philosophy to Tiger Purrr chai. All ingredients have been mindfully sourced with fewer demands on the food chain and environment.

Our Brand Tiger, Emma Scott, spent an hour talking with Mark on Tiger Purrr chai and all things mouth tinglingly delicious.

the journey to create tiger purrr chai

“First and foremost whatever I create needs to be delicious,” shares Mark. “But beyond that I always want to create something that will resonate with people. That will make them feel like they are part of something special.”

Mark starts with the familiar. In the case of Tiger Purrr chai he went back to the very origins of traditional Asian chai to explore ingredients that have been used, and loved, for hundreds of years. He paid respect to the craftspeople before him that created a style of tea that is adored around the world.
Mark then introduced a unique twist to the recipe, something from his own personal journey.

“Everything always comes back to alcohol,” he laughs. “I used a similar thought process to the incredible gin makers I know. I started looking at the botanicals in gin and the structure around these recipes. And that’s how I came up with the angelica root. Angelica root gives the recipe a grounded, earthy kind of flavour, similar to the role angelica root plays in gin. But it has the added medicinal benefit of being very calming and soothing, particularly for the stomach.”

In a world where the “fake” and chemical loaden chai powders lead to bloating and discomfort, Tiger Purrr chai’s pure ingredients and carefully crafted recipe is designed to enhance vitality.

Tiger Purrr chai ingredients of Assam tea, Szechuan pepper, fennel, cardamom, clove, cinnamon and angelica root

That mouth tingling feel

Interesting fact... Szechuan pepper is not actually a pepper. It’s a dried berry.

“Szechuan pepper is a quirky ingredient that not a lot of people are familiar with. In heavy doses it brings a mouth numbing experience. But if you pull that back, it delivers a seductive mouth tingling sensation. And it's really quite sensorial. It has a citrus note to it, almost bringing a floral lavender-citrus in the flavour profile,” says Mark.

When it comes to creating any style of tea, Mark sees the tannins as the foundation, just like in wine, which gives the recipe a grippy mouth feel. This is where high quality Assam tea plays its part in the Tiger Purrr recipe. Mark has chosen a leafy tea which creates a smoother, more complex flavour. It has an elegant balance — unlike the abrasive nature common in other teas. It’s from this base that Mark layers in other ingredients to create more interesting textural and flavour notes.

the Mark jensen way

Mark considers himself a classical chef when it comes to recipe creation. He has an in-depth understanding of food and flavour, from his years working and leading some of the best known restaurants in Australia. He believes chef’s need to have an appreciation for the classics before adding their own nuances.

Once Mark has a general feel for the recipe on an intellectual level, working from research, the next step is to test, repeat and test again with his trusty notebook. He plays with quantities and tastes at every iteration. He slowly starts adjusting the balance of ingredients to get to the final recipe. This can take months, and deservedly so. True quality and craftsmanship cannot be rushed. A recipe needs to become, it needs to be birthed.

Part of the process is also about allowing others to taste on the journey. Mark will do tastings with people who understand the flavours presented to them, those immersed in food and hospitality. But he will also seek the opinion of people unfamiliar with the flavours. He may canvas people's opinions but ultimately, as an artist, he follows his own intuition and creativity to drive the recipe towards what he believes is the perfect outcome.

Mark Jensen and Pauline Nguyen enjoying a cup of Tiger Purrr chai

becoming master taste-maker and executive chef at red lantern

Growing up in suburban Brisbane, Australia, Mark grew up in the family kitchen. He loved to cook. He was interested in flavour and experimenting with recipes he found in cookbooks. Food was a big part of his childhood. But for some reason he initially didn’t pursue cooking when he left school — but hairdressing.

However, it didn’t take him long to fall back into his first love. He landed a job in a restaurant in Byron Bay called Salt. 20 years ago Byron Bay was very different to the Byron of today. It was the raw era of Michael Hutchinson and Helena Christensen. He remembers the stars coming into the restaurant regularly. He began as a waiter and washing dishes, from there he started making salads. He enjoyed the work but quickly realised he needed to move to Sydney to turn this love into a career.

Mark was 27 when he started this journey, a lot older than other apprentices. He needed to work hard to work his way up through the ranks to catch up and start earning a decent wage. He put his head down. What he wasn't learning in other people’s kitchens he was learning in his own time. Experimenting, reading cookbooks, imagining food. Making mistakes and learning from the experience.

His first role in Sydney was with Matthew Moran. He remembers turning up to the interview ready to work, prepared to put in the hard yards.

“Matt liked the fact that I was more mature and dedicated. If somebody's going to walk into his kitchen and not ask for much money at 27 then the guy's got to be serious about what he's doing,” explains Mark. He worked progressively through every role in the kitchen. From there he went to Bennelong Restaurant and then Olympic Hotel before opening his own restaurant, Red Lantern, alongside Luke and Pauline Nguyen.

what is creativity to mark jensen?

“Creativity for me is thinking of an idea or a concept, and then laying out the steps or the foundations to make that a reality. So in the context of food... you come across an ingredient that maybe you haven't experienced before. You explore the taste of that ingredient, then you research its tradition. Where is it from? What has it been traditionally used for? What are other people doing with it? And finally you distil that information into your own expression of what you want to do with it, what you want to create,” shares Mark.

Mark likes to be aware of the trends of what others are doing but then create something completely different. “I’ll see what is being done with that ingredient, and that’s great but what can I do that is unique and interesting?” Mark Jensen is an outlier and maverick when it comes to his profession. He has had many experiments that haven't worked, purely because they’ve been before their time. Some things have just been a little too early to get traction. But for every commercial misfire, there is a win. And his wins are spectacular.

experimenting with tiger purrr in your life

On a personal note Mark has been cutting down his alcohol consumption. He loves wine, he loves spirits, he loves beer, he loves the stories behind expert alcohol crafting. He is never going to be a teetotaler. It’s all about balance for him at this point in his life.

He has been experimenting with Tiger Purrr as a pseudo non-alcoholic drink. Increasing the dose to two teaspoons so the tannins are really quite strong, adding in lime and a little sugar and serving it cold.

Mark loves that Tiger Purrr chai is a versatile product, it creates lots of opportunity for people to actually play with it and make it their own individual drink. “It’s an integral drink that stands up by itself, but it's also the building blocks to create” he shares.

Mark Jensen, masterchef who created the Tiger Purrr chai recipe

His intention in creating the Tiger Purrr chai was that every person needs to enjoy this special recipe as part of their daily life, making it their own. There’s the chef-recommended way to drink Tiger Purrr chai and then there’s a whole world of experimentation and creativity that comes with the product. Chef wants you to embrace Tiger Purr chai, and make it your own creation.

We would love to hear from you about how you Tiger Purrr chai. Email us on hello@tigerpurrr.com and we will share details about the ‘How You Tiger Purrr Chai’ competition. Each month our favourite entries will be featured on Tiger Purrr socials and winners will receive a FREE Tiger Purrr gift.