March 12 2021 – Diana L
A tea so popular around the world, but what kind of tea is chai?
We think of Chai as a flavor – chai latte, chai spice, pumpkin chai – but that is not the case in India. In Hindi, "chai" simply means "tea" and is simply their common way of preparing tea which is tea, milk, and sugar. There is a legend that more than 5,000 years ago, a King of India wanted a spiced beverage to be made from the healing herbs and spices to be used in Ayurveda, their traditional form of medicine.
So it's really redundant to ask what is chai tea...What we're saying is what is tea tea?
In America, "chai" truly has become known as a flavor of tea recognized by the predominantly cinnamon or cardamom notes. What we think of in America as a deliciously flavored beverage is, in India, simply the standard way of preparing tea.
Before we go any further, to avoid sounding tea-illiterate, maybe we should discuss how you to refer to multiple chai teas...Luckily chai is a noun that doesn't have to be countable. Chai can be used to refer to several cups of tea. But you would not be wrong to also refer to it as chais, such as when you're talking about various types of chais.
What is chai tea made of?
(As you can see this is going to be a really tough habit to break since we are so accustomed to pairing Chai with Tea.)
The best loose leaf black tea for chai is a stronger, black tea such as Ceylon, Darjeeling, or Assam. While most chai starts with a black tea base, there are many other chai flavors that are blended from green or even white tea! The color of the tea really begins with the base, so the color of chai tea can range from dark to amber to pale if white tea is the base.
There are several types of spices that are commonly used in chai. Cardamom is probably the most common ingredient, with a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, star anise, and cloves following along. Sometimes pepper, coriander, nutmeg, and fennel are included, but less common than the others.
While the traditional blends usually only include spices, some more recent creations include blends with chocolate, nuts, fruits, and flowers. Chai blends are really a personal preference.
What does chai tea taste like?
Chai is available in a variety of flavors, so there's most likely a chai that would suit your palate!
Masala Chai is a rich, Ceylon black tea blended with the delicious flavors of clove, cardamom, cinnamon stick, plus fresh ginger creating a fragrant, full flavor. Masala is one of the more robust chais.
Green Chai is an aromatic green tea infused with a warm chai spice blend of cardamom, clove, and ginger. Naturally sweet, crisp, and refreshing as you would expect from a green tea with a balanced finish of chai spice.
Chai Thai is a delicious blend of black tea leaves and Thai spices. The aroma of creamy, sweet coconut and lemongrass blended with ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom.
The wildly popular Maharaja Chai Oolong has the smooth flavor of oolong tea combined with an alluring chai spice blend of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, chicory, cocoa nibs and a bit of Masala spice creating a savory and spicy cup. This is a cinnamon lover's dream come true!
White Spice Chai is a more delicate chai starting with a light-bodied white tea base. It is a unique blend of white tea with complex notes of lemongrass, apple pieces, and pineapple pieces. The sweetness of the fruit flavors is balanced with notes of ginger root, cinnamon bark, cloves, dried coconut, cardamom, natural spices, and cinnamon with a kick of peppercorn for added zest and a delicious chai spice finish.
What is Vanilla Chai tea? Vanilla chai has a crisp, tangy-sweet flavor. Rooibos and chai spices are infused with ginger, orange, and vanilla bean flavor. The spices and creamy vanilla blend to perfection.
And getting back to the legend of Ayurveda, White Ayurvedic Chai takes the traditional chai flavors of cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves, and by adding coconut, pineapple pieces, and natural ginger flavor we create a complex nose and full-bodied flavor without being too spicy. The aroma releases the zesty notes of lemongrass and ginger while the subtle sweetness of the coconut and pineapple in the blend leaves an intoxicating essence that ties the blend together.
Is Chai tea good for you?
Chai has many health benefits, starting with the same benefits of the base tea. If it contains black tea, the benefits of chai include the benefits of black tea. But there are many health benefits of the spices that are blended in as well. Traditional Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine both use spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and ginger for their healing benefits.
Benefits of chai include:
- Energy boost - Chai made from black tea contains higher levels of caffeine, providing a boost of energy
- Antioxidant support - Antioxidants in black tea and spices may help protect the cells and boost the immune system
- Digestion aid - Ginger is known to be beneficial for digestion, so if you are looking to improve gut health, look for a chai that contains ginger
- Lower cholesterol - Again, that little powerhouse ginger along with black tea, pepper, and cinnamon may help reduce bad cholesterol.
- Anti-inflammation - We are learning more and more that inflammation is at the root of so many chronic diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer's. The anti-inflammatory properties of black tea combined with ginger, turmeric, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon have been studied in their help battle such diseases.
- Relief from nausea – Yep, again the ginger! Ginger root is commonly used to help treat nausea and vomiting. But if your stomach is upset, look for a chai blended from an herbal, white, or rooibos tea instead of the black teas.
How long should I steep chai tea?
Chai tea is typically steeped longer to give them more time to release the flavor and beneficial compounds. But again this will vary depending on the tea base. Green Chai tea has a shorter steep of about 3 minutes, Maharaja Chai Oolong is best around 5 minutes, and Masala Chai steeps out at 7-10 minutes!
What is a dirty chai tea latte?
A chai latte is a cup of chai with steamed milk and topped with foam for a delicious balance of sweet and spicy. A dirty chai tea latte adds in a single shot of espresso. It is "dirty" because the espresso muddies up the color of the tea.
Chai. Such a simple term with so many possibilities! What is the next chai in your cup?