If you’re drinking tea, then technically you’re drinking chai. At least if you’re located in one of several countries where the words “chai” and “tea” are one and the same. But for most tea drinkers, what we think of when someone mentions chai is a little different. The creamy blend of spicy hot tea known as chai is more correctly known as masala chai – Hindi for “spiced tea.”
Chai, as we know it here in the West, comes in various forms. Most notable are the chai tea lattes, which are served hot and cold and have been popularized by a certain well-known coffee and tea purveyor that seems to have a store on every block. There are also various types of bottled chai beverages that have been proliferating in recent years and these days many tea companies are offering chai blends in loose leaf or tea bags.
Chai, as popularized in India and certain other countries, may vary in the details but typically contains some common ingredients. Chai is usually prepared with strong black tea like the varieties grown in India’s Assam region. In addition to water, chai also contain milk and is sweetened with sugar or honey.
But its spices that give chai its unique flavor. While these vary among different blends, one of the most important is probably cardamom. Other common chai spices may include cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, fennel, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, and star anise.
Nowadays chai can be as easy as stopping at a nearby cafe or using a pre-packaged concentrate. For a more authentic experience you can try brewing chai in a more traditional manner. While there’s no one accepted method for making chai, it can be as easy as combining the ingredients, boiling them and straining off the liquid from the tea leaves or bags.
Chai can be enjoyed year-round and is especially nice during the colder months, but with warm weather on the way it’s a great time to think about drinking it over ice.
Schools in! Head over to William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks, for more lessons!