by Lisa Richarson [reposted from our sister blog]
“Chai tea” is more correctly referred to as masala chai, as the word “chai” is another word for “tea.” With the resurgence of tea’s popularity in the United States, a new commercial and customer appreciation has been found for chai.
Chai originates in India, where is it simply a mixture of strong, hot black tea with a unique selection of spices. It is then usually served with milk and sugar. A popular Americanized version of chai is served in a latté form with steamed milk.
The most unique characteristics of chai are the flavors induced by its spices. Cinnamon is one of the strongest flavors of chai tea, and cloves, cardamom, and ginger can be sensed as well. These strong, spicy flavors are much more noticeable when the tea is sweetened, hence, chai is usually drunk exclusively with milk and sugar. Unsweetened chai is generally thought not to reveal its spicy flavors enough.
Chai is available across the United States in teabags as well as loose form, but it is also easy to make homemade. A combination of a black tea with the various spicy ingredients is essentially all it takes to blend a home-mixed chai or to make a chai latté.
Chai is not only becoming quite popular in the United States but is already extremely popular in southern Asia, where it is very nearly more common than coffee. Chai is also sometimes served cold, or mixed with other complimentary flavors such as vanilla or chocolate.