Your Guide To Brewing The Best Chai Tea
Chai is a versatile drink that enables you to create flavors you love. Made of a variety of spices, this drink delivers bold flavor that is strong enough for the hardiest palettes. The beauty of chai is that additives like milk and lemon can mellow out the taste for beginner tea drinkers. That means there is a chai for just about everyone.
Brewing chai can be as simple as dropping a tea bag in hot water or as complex as grinding your own spices. The addition of milk offers a new dimension to the classic chai tea concentrate. Each method delivers a unique flavor profile that can be tweaked to suit your preferences. Find out how to brew the best chai tea with this handy guide.
What is Chai?
Chai simply means tea in Hindi. Masala chai is a spiced tea that is indulgent and healthy. It's a staple in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine and has been used to treat diseases for centuries in Asia. Chai is an Indian beverage and is a key part of social gatherings and interactions.
Traditional chai tea is made by steeping spices in hot water. Chai can be made with many different spices, but the five staple ingredients are green cardamom, cinnamon, black peppercorns, cloves, and fresh ginger. Some chai blends also include star anise and fennel as well.
Chai masala tea is also commonly brewed with the addition of black tea leaves. Chai tea blends typically use Assam and Darjeeling black teas for infusion. For chai with lower caffeine content, green tea is often used. Rooibos tea infusions offer the delicious flavor of chai without any caffeine.
You can enjoy chai tea several different ways. Making chai tea from scratch offers the most authentic flavor, but also takes the most time. You can also sip a creamy chai latte like the ones from Starbucks or your favorite local coffee shop.
During the British colonial period, the tea was often consumed with a splash of milk and sugar. Here, we've put together a handy guide to help you brew this delicious beverage multiple ways.
How to Brew Chai Two Different Ways
Homemade Chai Recipe
Making chai from scratch isn't difficult, but takes some time. The traditional brewing method involves grinding spices by hand to elicit the best flavor.
You can save some time by grinding spices in large batches and storing them in airtight containers for future use. You can also use ground spices to significantly cut down the preparation time.
This method delivers the most authentic and powerful flavor.
1 small piece fresh ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
4 black peppercorns or 1 teaspoon black pepper
8 cardamom pods or cardamom seeds
2 cups milk (whole, coconut, soy, rice, or almond milk)
2 cups water
4 black tea bags (typically Assam or Darjeeling)
1. Grind the spices using a plastic bag and mallet or a spice grinder.
2. Combine the ground spices, milk, and water in a medium saucepan on high heat. Bring to a rolling boil.
3. Once the spices reach 212 F, remove from heat and add in the black tea bags or loose leaf black tea. Use Assam tea or Darjeeling tea for the most authentic flavor. Cover the pan and steep for 10 minutes.
4. Use a fine mesh strainer to remove loose leaves from the tea concentrate.
5. Pour into a tea cup and enjoy!
Chai Tea Latte
For some palettes, traditional chai can be too strong or bold in flavor.
That's where the chai latte comes in. A popular American drink, chai lattes offer a mellower flavor than traditional brews. Chai lattes use the addition of milk to even out the bold spiced flavor, resulting in a creamy, rich beverage that is tasty and indulgent.
Chai lattes are brewed similarly to traditional chai, but the milk is added in later.
1. Start by brewing the chai using the recipe above. Make sure to set aside the milk, rather than adding it in with the water and spices.
2. Once you have brewed the chai tea concentrate. Steam the milk using a handheld frother or one on an espresso machine. If you don't have a frother, you can froth the milk by hand. Simply cook the milk and bring to a boil in a saucepan. Use a whisk to vigorously froth the milk until it reaches a foamy consistency.
3. Pour the chai concentrate into your tea cup and add the frothed milk on top. Garnish with a dash of cinnamon and enjoy!
How to Find the Best Chai Tea
Chai tea is readily available at the grocery store and in online retailers such as Amazon. Whether you prefer chai tea bags or loose leaf teas, there's an option out there for you.
Finding the best chai tea among so many options can sometimes be overwhelming. Luckily, there are a few things you can look for to ensure you're getting a high quality chai blend.
Ingredient lists are your best friends when it comes to ferreting out the best masala chai tea mix. Most high quality tea companies will list the ingredients as well as where they were sourced from.
This is particularly important when it comes to masala chai black tea blends. Black teas from China taste vastly different than those from India. Making chai with different types of black teas will elicit different flavors. For traditional taste, look for chai spiced teas that use Indian black teas.
If sustainability and protecting workers' rights are important to you, look for certifications right on the chai packaging. Many name brands including Bigelow and Tazo are part of the Ethical Tea Partnership. That means Tazo chai blends are made without forced labor and the company ensures workers have safe working environments and freedom of association. The Fair Trade certification also ensures workers' rights are protected during manufacturing.
The USDA certifies organic products with a 'USDA Organic' label that ensures the tea or spices were grown sustainably without chemical additives. The European Union also has an EU Organic label that makes it easy to select products that are healthy and ecologically grown.
The Best Chai You Can Brew
Chai spice tea is delicious and offers potent health benefits to improve your daily life. You can sip a hot chai beverage or cool down with an iced masala chai blend. The traditional method of grinding the spices by hand and brewing fresh offers the most authentic and powerful flavor. If you prefer milder teas, whip up a chai latte that delivers sweet flavor and rich texture for an indulgent tea drinking experience.