All About Chai, the Delicious Spiced Milk Tea from India

All About Chai, the Delicious Spiced Milk Tea from India

You may have heard someone order a “chai latte” at your local coffee shop or seen a chai flavored sweet at a bakery, but what exactly is chai? The short answer is that chai is a spiced milk tea from India, but the long answer may surprise you. There are many variations of chai tea, each with their own spices and flavors, as well as many different preparations from the aforementioned latte to ice cream or even a cupcake. Let’s take a peek into the world of chai and discover a new flavor profile.

Origins of Chai

First of all, the phrase “Chai Tea” is actually redundant, as the word chai simply means tea. What most Westerners are used to drinking in coffee shops or even at home is properly called “masala chai,” which means “spiced tea.” In India, masala chai is a black tea blended with aromatic spices like cardamom, anise, and cinnamon and mixed with milk and sometimes sweetener to bring out the flavors of the spices. Buffalo milk was traditionally used in Indian chai because the rich milk contrasts well with the sharp flavors of the spices, and white or brown sugar is used to suit the tastes of the drinker. Indian chai vendors will often mix the spiced tea with milk by pouring it from long distance for a show and a drink!

Health Benefits of Chai

Like many other teas, chai tea is much lower in caffeine than coffee, containing less than half the same amount per cup. As a coffee substitute, chai can give you a little caffeine boost without all the side effects of coffee. Besides low caffeine, the other health benefits come from the herbs and spices mixed in with the tea. Both cloves and cinnamon have proven anti-inflammatory properties. Not only black tea but also ginger root (another common ingredient in chai) are powerful antioxidants. Ginger and black pepper are also helpful for digestion, which makes chai a popular drink after a meal. While heavy cream or whole milk might have a little fat, you can make your chai even more healthful with almond or coconut milk.

Chai Varieties

In India, many varieties of chai tea exist, sold by street vendors and in restaurants, even made at home. There are as many types of chai as there are provinces in India, so it’s really hard to define one kind of spiced tea as “chai.” The common denominator with most spiced chai blends is green cardamom, a very aromatic and expensive herb originating in Malaysia and India. As well as different spice blends, you can use different types of milk, depending on your tolerances and tastes. Let’s look at some different recipes for chai.

Chai Spice Recipes

By reading this article, you can know more about the chai you order at a coffee shop, or you can even make your own chai at home using these recipes. It’s super easy to mix your own chai at home, and you can customize it to your needs.

Classic Masala Chai

This is the traditional recipe for chai tea that will give you the closest to the Indian chai experience at home. You don’t even have to pour the tea in a long stream like the vendors do, just use fresh, whole herbs. This makes two cups, perfect for sharing.

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water (you want a 1:1 ratio of milk:water)
  • 1/2 inch of fresh ginger root in slices
  • 3 pieces cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 5-6 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 4 teaspoons loose black tea

Heat your milk and water mixture and add all the whole spices. Once the mixture is boiling, add the loose leaf black tea. Let boil for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and let it steep for 3 minutes. Strain through fine mesh or cheesecloth. Sweeten to taste, using brown sugar for the most authentic Indian chai flavor.

Spicy Chai

This spiced chai tea blend has a bit more of those sharp, biting flavors to give you a little kick with your milky tea flavor. This tea blend is especially good in the morning, as the spices will get you up and running. This spice blend recipe is for one cup. You can scale it up to make chai tea for friends, or make a large amount and save it for quick preparation later.

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water (you want a 1:1 ratio of milk:water)
  • 1/2 inch of fresh ginger root in slices
  • 3 pieces cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 5-6 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 4 teaspoons loose black tea

Vegan Chai

To make your chai tea vegan, simply substitute your favorite nut milk for the traditional animal milk. Almond milk is very good in chai because it is rich and the subtle nutty flavor pairs well with chai spices. Coconut milk can also be a great substitute, and you can even add a little coconut cream to make your vegan chai tea extra rich.

Chai Spice Cookies

You can even get that great masala chai flavor in baked goods. You can serve these at a holiday party as a great spin on traditional ginger spice cookies, or they’re even good during a summer brunch.

Spice Mix

  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice

Cookie Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 2 egg yolks

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. With an electric mixer, mix softened butter and the powdered sugar in a large bowl until thoroughly blended. Add egg yolks, vanilla. Mix dry ingredients and add to the bowl. Using a tablespoon, separate dough, and roll into balls. Put them on a greased cookie sheet with at least an inch of space between them. Bake from 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool for five minutes. Mix 1 ½ cups powdered sugar with ½ teaspoon ground cardamom and roll warm cookies in this for a sweet coating. Let them cool more, then add one more layer of coating.

Preserving Your Tea and Spices

When it comes to keeping your chai and other teas fresh, you need to have the right container. You need a package that is puncture proof, light proof, bug proof, and airtight. Experts at PBFY have developed specialty packaging just for aromatic products like coffee, tea, and spices, and they are the perfect people to create packaging that will preserve the unique flavor of chai tea. With the aromatics in chai like cinnamon and clove, you need a container that will keep it fresh.

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