Chai 101: What is chai tea and how to make it at home

When it comes to chai, we’re definitely not snobs. Hot, iced, traditional, caffeine-free – we think you should do whatever makes you feel cozy. Bursting with rich and spicy flavours, this spiced black tea blend is a delicious way to warm up your soul and invigorate your senses. Just try our signature chai tea latte recipe to see what we mean.

Chai curious? Read on to get the spicy deets.

What is chai?

The word “chai” actually means “tea.” What we think of as chai came about when people in India started adding black tea to masala – a hot spiced beverage traditionally sipped for its cleansing properties – and masala chai (aka “spiced tea”) was born. Travel to India or Pakistan today and you’ll find this flavourful brew being sipped everywhere – at street stands, in shops, on trains and even in rickshaws.

So what makes chai so comforting? It’s traditionally made up of four main components: tea, milk, sugar and, of course, tons of feel-good spices.

DIY Masala Chai

Tea

Although tradition calls for a strong full-bodied black tea base, the most common being Assam, we believe chai tastes amazing with almost any tea type – from pu’erh to green tea to rooibos. Here are some of our faves:

Saigon Chai : Looking for the warm and comforting flavours of a traditional chai? You can’t do better than this spiced black tea blend filled with Saigon cinnamon, cardamom and pink peppercorns.

S’mores Chai : Inspired by the campfire classic, this sweet and decadent cinnamon-laced pu’erh tea is the most delicious way to satisfy a dessert craving.

Kashmiri Chai : This delicate green chai is our twist on the traditional Kashmiri tea (aka “noon chai”). We especially love its forward notes of aromatic green cardamom and ginger.

Cinnamon Rooibos Chai : Made with a hydrating base of naturally sweet rooibos, this warming organic cinnamon tea makes the perfect caffeine-free chai latte.

Spices

Chai is made with a variety of fresh herbs and spices, the most common being cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves and pepper. Many families have their own signature recipes, with ingredients varying from region to region, household to household. Some will have an extra hint of fennel or coriander, while others may have subtle notes of star anise or nutmeg.

In fact, chai recipes are so prized that families cherish them as a source of pride, passing them down through the generations as closely guarded secrets. Kind of like your grandma’s secret cookie recipe… which you still haven’t shared with us.

Milk

We love using creamy, silky, rich whole milk to help bring out the richness in the spices. Of course, you can make a chai with almost any milk you like – hot or cold, lactose-free or plant-based. That’s the beauty of chai – everyone has their own recipe, and no two chais are the same.

Sweetener

Got a sweet tooth? Then you’re already on your way to loving chai. In Southeast Asia, unrefined sugar called “jaggery” is often used to give this deliciously spicy brew a deep sweetness. But don’t worry if you don’t have it in your pantry: maple syrup, white sugar, brown sugar, agave and even coconut or cane sugar are all great ways to sweeten your chai.

Chai tea benefits

Another reason to love chai? It’s packed with traditional feel-good spices hailed in Ayurvedic medicine for their amazing health benefits, from digestion-loving cardamom and cold-soothing ginger to focus-enhancing cinnamon. For a powerhouse chai that’ll make you feel 100, reach for these five popular super spices.

Ginger

Bright, peppery and warming, this popular wonder root never fails to up the cozy factor of a classic masala chai. Plus it’s been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to ward off cold weather and settle upset tummies.

Green Cardamom

These exotic little pods are loved for their soothing flavours and aromas – from sweet, spicy and citrusy to floral and peppery, with hints of eucalyptus. What’s more, they’ve been hailed as a natural breath freshener and digestive aid – perfect after a heavy meal!

Black Pepper

Bring on the heat! Pepper’s sharp and spicy flavour is what makes rich, creamy chais extra warming during the fall and winter seasons. Plus it provides a lively zip and subtle pop of heat that never fail to get our taste buds tingling.

Cinnamon

This super spice is the epitome of comfort thanks to its delicate sweetness and warmth. Bonus: it’s also said to have natural skin-brightening and focus-enhancing powers. If that isn’t super, we don’t know what is.

Cloves

Cloves are like powerful little flavour bombs. They’re strong, sweet and slightly bitter, so when it comes to brewing the perfect cup of chai, a little goes a long way. Plus they’re known for their amazing soothing properties. No wonder we feel so relaxed after a cup!

Homemade Chai Recipe

Ready to whip up a deliciously frothy chai latte? Break out your fave mug – we’re about to show you how to make a quick and easy chai tea latte at home.

Homemade Chai Recipe

Serves One 16oz mug
Prep time 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 Perfect Spoonfuls of Kenyan Tinderet tea
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2-3 cloves
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • ¼ tsp fennel seeds
  • 2-3 black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp agave

Directions

Step 1
In a small pot, bring water to a boil, then add spices. Simmer for 5 min.
Step 2
Add tea, milk and agave and continue to simmer for another 3-5 min.
Step 3
Strain into a mug and enjoy!

Now that you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time to up your chai game. From iced chai lattes to S’mores Chai blondies, explore more amazing chai recipes here.

Our favourite chai blends

Don’t have the patience to make your own masala chai mix at home? Our specially blended chai teas are a fast and delicious way to get your fix. Just add hot water, then top with frothed milk and a cozy dash of cinnamon.

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2 Responses to Chai 101: What is chai tea and how to make it at home

  1. Tina September 26, 2018 at 9:21 am #

    How much water is needed for the very first step?

    • DAVIDsTEA October 24, 2018 at 10:51 am #

      Hi Tina! Use 1 cup of water 🙂

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