Masala chai, popularly referred to as chai, originated in India as a delicious combination of spicy and sweet tea with boiled milk. And in nearly all Indian streets, you will find either a chai or tea stall. For most chai enthusiasts, chai is the unspoken conversation starter. Initially, chai was revered by the working class, as it combines tasty tea with the unrivaled sustenance of spices, honey or sugar, and milk, making it a super drink that guaranteed energy throughout the day. Over time, chai gained lots of popularity not just in India, but globally as well thanks to its numerous potential health benefits. We discuss all of those benefits and more in this article. But first, what does Chai taste like?
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So, what does chai taste like?
Because there are many different ways to make chai tea by using various ingredients, chai tea doesn’t have a standard taste or flavor. However, because chai is generally a fusion of sugar, spice, black tea, and milk, it is a flavored beverage that can be described as spicy, sweet, and creamy.
Regardless of the ingredients used, the taste of chai is usually warm and spicy, with the creaminess of milk combined with the natural sweetness of either honey or sugar.
But what is chai?
First and foremost, it is important to note that the name chai is an Indian term used to describe tea. And as earlier explained, chai is widely considered the national beverage of India. Chai is essentially a powerful blend of herbs, tea, spices, and milk that has been cherished for years in India as well as other parts of the world as a means of enhancing peace of mind and boosting overall health.
There are four primary ingredients in chai tea, including:
- The tea: With a few exceptions, black tea is the base of chai. While there are numerous varieties of black tea, Assam remains the most common in chai, as it boasts a strong, full-bodied flavor.
- Milk: Nearly all chai recipes feature milk, which is usually whole. Whole milk helps to bring out the best of the richness in all the feature spices.
- Spices: Chai can have many types of spices. However, cardamom is arguably the most common ingredient, followed by some mixture of ginger, cinnamon, star anise as well as cloves. Coriander, pepper, fennel, and nutmeg can also be used, but are somewhat less common. All chai tea experts agree that fresh spices make arguably the best chai!
- Sweetener: Plain white sugar is the common type of sweetener used in chai. However, unrefined can sugar can also be used thanks to its highly concentrated sugary flavor, but it is rarely available in America. You can also use honey as a sweetener in your chai tea.
These simple ingredients will not only provide you with energy but will also help you get through a bad or good day. While you can of course get chai tea from most coffee shops and restaurants, preparing your own chai is always the best. You can effortlessly make your own chai with the right ingredients, all easily available.
Health benefits of chai tea
Besides its tasty and captivating flavor, traditional chai boasts several potential health benefits. Depending on the ingredients used, chai tea guarantees a variety of benefits, such as:
- It has potent antioxidant properties: The spices and black tea may help protect your body cells from oxidative stress. The most common tea base for traditional chai tea is Assam and research shows that Assam black tea boasts somewhat higher polyphenolic content. Antioxidants not only protect your cells from damage but also improve your immune system.
- Improves digestion: Both black pepper and ginger can be highly beneficial for the process of digestion by improving gut health.
- Better brain power: The spices and black tea found in chai can offer significant benefits to both short-term and long-term cognitive function. Studies suggest that cinnamon, in particular, can boost both memory and attention. What’s more, black tea contains both caffeine and amino acids which are all linked to improved focus and attention.
- Lowers blood sugar levels: Black tea plays a significant role in regulating glucose levels and may also prevent sudden spikes in blood sugar. It is particularly valuable for regulating sugar levels after taking sugary beverages.
- Has weight loss properties: The black tea found in chai may help in achieving weight loss goals. What’s more, studies show that cinnamon may help with metabolic syndrome and help lose weight, reduce fat and blood sugar levels as well as cholesterol. Black tea may also help with enhancing fat burn and reducing calorie intake.
- May help relieve pains and aches: The various spices found in chai tea may also help in alleviating chronic pains and aches emanating from conditions such as arthritis. These health benefits are derived from the potent anti-inflammatory properties of some of the ingredients present in chai, particularly clove and ginger. Cloves have been used for years as a homeopathic remedy for minor pains such as toothaches. Ginger root, on the other hand, has been shown to reduce inflammation, which can help ease pain from minor migraines and headaches. Furthermore, ginger boosts circulation, delivering oxygen-rich blood cells to areas with pains and aches to help alleviate the symptoms.
- May improve heart health: Studies have proven that cinnamon, one of the main ingredients in chai tea, can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Popular Chai tea recipes:
Authentic traditional Indian Chai:
- 8 Oz of clean water.
- 4 Oz of whole milk.
- A single heaping tablespoon of black tea.
- Granulated sugar (two tablespoons)
- Pinch of fennel seeds (ten seeds)
- Four cardamom pods (smashed)
- A piece of fresh ginger:
Bring the water and whole milk to a simmer with the desired spices in a saucepan. Minimize heat to the lowest setting and add black tea. Steep until the tea assumes a deep, pinky-tan color, stirring gently and occasionally. Strain into a cup, add sugar and stir to taste.
Simple chai tea recipe:
- 8 cloves.
- 8 cardamom seeds.
- Two cups of whole milk.
- Four bags of black tea (Darjeeling).
- 11-inch piece fresh ginger (sliced).
- Two cinnamon sticks.
- Four black peppercorns.
- Six teaspoons of sugar, or more, to taste.
- Put the cloves, cardamom, and peppercorns in a mortar and subsequently crush them using a pestle.
- Next, put the crushed spices in a medium saucepan, together with the ginger, cinnamon sticks, and two cups of water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add your teabags, cover and allow it to heat for a couple of minutes.
- Strain into cups. And two teaspoons of sugar to each cup.
Indian vegan chai tea:
- 1.25 cup of Almond Breeze milk, or oat milk, soy milk, or any other non-dairy milk.
- cup of water.
- 1.5 tablespoons of raw sugar.
- 2 tablespoons of chai Patti.
- One tablespoon of grated fresh ginger.
- a teaspoon of chai masala blend.
- In a medium saucepan at medium heat, add water, chai Patti, sugar, ginger, and chai masala blend. Bring to a bubbling boil for five to ten minutes.
- Slowly pour the almond milk, and allow the mixture to heat for about five minutes.
- Strain into a cup and serve hot!
What is the difference between a chai latte and chai tea?
While these two terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. And the main differences between them lie in taste and preparation methods. And in terms of taste, a chai latte is fairly sweeter compared to a conventional chai tea.
A chai tea latte usually contains added sugar, and depending on how it is prepared, can include a sweetener, cream, and non-traditional spices that give it its unique super sweet taste. Simply put, a chai latte is prepared by mixing black tea with steamed milk and spices. The drink is then topped with foam. Of course, the spices used usually vary from café to café.
Chai tea, on the other hand, largely relies on its traditional ingredients, including milk, spices as well as sugar for its natural flavor. And as far as preparation is concerned, chai tea is typically brewed with warm milk whereas chai tea lattes are made using frothed milk.
What is dirty Chai tea?
If you are a chai tea aficionado, the chances are high that you have probably seen or even tasted dirty chai tea in your local restaurant. Dirty chai tea is simply a chai tea latte that features an added shot of espresso.
Is Chai vegan?
Because traditional chai tea features animal milk, there is no way we can say it’s vegan! Traditionally, when making chai tea, you boil the water with spices, add milk and boil the chai for some more minutes. However, you can easily make your vegan chai by simply using plant-based milk, such as cashew, coconut, almond, or soy milk. Of course, you also need to avoid honey, as it’s animal-based. So, simply put, traditional chai tea isn’t vegan because it usually features dairy milk.
Does Chai have caffeine?
As you may have already known, chai is usually made with tea, which is a great alternative to coffee. However, does it replicate the same caffeine boost you’d get from a cup of espresso? Not at all.
Even though chai made with tea does have some traces of caffeine, the levels aren’t as concentrated as your regular coffee. So, does this make chai less superior to its espresso counterpart? Definitely not.
If you didn’t know, chai tea is filled with numerous powerful ingredients that will improve your overall health in many ways. Studies suggest that chai can potentially boost your focus and clarity for longer durations than coffee!
A regular cup of chai tea can contain anywhere between 20 and 100mg of caffeine, depending on how the beverage is prepared. It is widely agreed that by minimizing the steeping time, you can probably reduce the caffeine levels by up to 80%.
Chai lattes featuring concentrates or powders may have the lowest levels of caffeine, ranging between 25 and 55mg. However, dirty chai lattes, which are made by adding a few shots of espresso to the usual chai and milk, features arguably the highest level of caffeine, ranging from 35 to 65mg.
The Bottom line:
There are potentially endless reasons why you would want to incorporate chai tea into your daily diet routine. This legendary beverage is not only super easy to make, but also boasts numerous benefits that can enhance your health in many ways. It is not only great for your weight loss journey but will also boost your cognitive function while also lowering your risk of cardiovascular conditions.