What Is Chai Coffee?

What Is Chai Coffee?

Chai Coffee, chai tea, or the chai latte is actually all one and the same. The chai latte is a hot, creamy, beautifully fragrant, and mildly spicy beverage that is enjoyed all over the world.

The name Chai coffee is actually quite inaccurate, because of the fact that these drinks actually contain no coffee whatsoever, and is actually considered tea.

The chai tea, or chai tea latte, which is what we will refer to it as for the rest of this article, is one of the oldest tea-based drinks in existence.

The basic preparation involves steamed milk and black tea that is infused with a variety of spices. The finished drink is then topped with foam to create an attractive aesthetic.

But what does the actual word “chai” refer to in regards to this incredibly popular beverage? The word chai in this context refers specifically to masala chai, which is a specific mixture of spices and black tea, combined by steeping the black tea in water and then combining it with ginger, milk, and sugar.

There are numerous variations and twists that have been developed based on the original chai mix of black tea and spices.

History Of Chai Coffee

History Of Chai Coffee

The history and origins of chai and chai tea can be traced back many centuries to the subcontinent of India and the cultures present at that time (5000 to 9000 years ago). The word chai originates from the Hindustani word for all and any tea.

There are some stories and reports that indicate chai tea as a beverage that originated in a Siam royal court as an Ayurvedic (ancient Indian form of medicine) drink that was consumed in court settings. As mentioned earlier, chai was originally known as Masala chai, which refers to a black tea and spice blend.

In the 1830s, the British set up tea farms in India in an attempt to undermine the Chinese monopoly over the tea industry at the time. These farms produced the black tea that made its way into the local masala chai recipes and is the first appearance of the modern-day masala chai blend.

This era also saw changes in the blend by adding things like milk and sweetener, which helped lower the cost of the beverage as black tea on its own was quite costly.

Masala gradually rose in popularity and by the 1960s, an industrialized method for tea production was developed which made black tea affordable to the masses in India.

Masala chai became commonplace in many parts of India. In each region, street vendors and train car vendors, popularly known as chai wallahs (the baristas of chai), produced and sold masala chai to the public.

In modern-day America, people have created their own mixtures, blends and variations to the original masala chai recipe. In fact, the name itself has shifted from masala chai to just chai or chai tea.

This name change is actually quite misleading, as masala chai means “spiced tea”, and chai simply means “tea”. Therefore, chai tea would translate humorously into “tea tea”.

The history of the chai latte itself is quite vague, with little hard evidence available for drawing historical lineages. It is believed to have started appearing in Western regions in the early 1990s.

Chai tea and chai lattes have become increasingly popular among western civilizations over the past couple of decades, as they are now offered and enjoyed in the majority of cafes and coffee houses around North America.

Ingredients

Ingredients

Traditional chai tea lattes are made simply with black tea and some sort of hot milk (cow, almond oat etc..).

There are however a number of different popular spice blends that are added to the traditional chai tea recipe, which we will cover in this section. First, let’s talk about the caffeine and calorie content of a typical chai tea latte.

Caffeine

The main ingredient of the chai tea latte is black tea, which is also the ingredient that contains all of the active caffeine found in chai lattes. The standard serving size of 8 ounces of black tea has between 25-48 mg of caffeine in it.

A standard cup of coffee averages somewhere between 95-165 mg of caffeine. Although chai lattes have significantly less caffeine than a cup of coffee, they can still provide that caffeinated boost.

It is also possible to get what is called a “dirty chai” which is a typical chai latte with a shot of espresso, which adds another approximately 64 mg of caffeine to your drink.

Calories

When it comes to calorie counting in regards to chai tea lattes, ones that are from concentrate will typically have significantly more calories than home-brewed chai lattes because of the sugar and other sweeteners that are used.

According to Healthline, a typical homemade chai latte using the standard ingredients will ring in at somewhere around 180 calories.

The type of milk you or the latte brewer chooses to use will also have an effect on the total caloric intake, as cow milk has notably more calories than other kinds of milk (almond, soy, oat, etc..)

Best Coffee Beans for Chai Coffee

Best Coffee Beans for Chai Coffee

As we discussed earlier, chai tea’s main caffeine-containing ingredient is black tea. There is actually no coffee present in chai tea lattes, and therefore there are no coffee beans used.

Chai tea blends use some sort of black tea, Assam or Darjeeling are the more popular types of black tea typically used in chai tea.

In situations where a lower caffeine content is desired, green tea is often used as it contains less caffeine than black tea. Rooibos tea is also a fully caffeine-free option that can provide a chai-style flavor without the presence of caffeine.

Spices

Spices

The combination of spices is an incredibly important part of making a tasty, fragrant, pleasant chai tea.

There are a number of popular combinations of a number of widely used spices. These often vary from country to country, region to region, and family to family.

Common Spices

  • Cardamom
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon
  • Star Anise
  • Cloves
  • Fennel
  • Nutmeg
  • Coriander

How To Prepare A Chai Tea Latte

How To Prepare A Chai Tea Latte

If you would like to skip the coffee shop stop, and endeavor to make a chai tea latte at home, it does not require much expertise to make a delicious cup on your own.

Here is a step-by-step homemade chai tea latte guide:

You will need a few pieces of equipment to begin

  • Small saucepan
  • Fine mesh strainer
  • Whisk or blender

Ingredients

  • 2 black tea bags (English Breakfast tea works), or 4 grams of tea leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups of water
  • ½ teaspoon of ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon of ground allspice
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey
  • Milk of your choice – dairy or dairy-free (almond, oat, soy, coconut)

Procedure

  • The first step is to create your own chai tea concentrate. Take your blend of spices and brew them in a small saucepan with your water over medium heat on the stove.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil and then let the ingredients simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Turn off the heat and add your tea bags or batch of loose leaf tea, as well as your sweetener (maple syrup, honey, etc..) Allow this mixture to simmer for another five minutes.
  • Next, pour your chai concentrate through a fine-mesh strainer and into a bowl to collect. Be sure to put aside ½ a cup of the chai tea concentrate to make your latte with. Store the rest in an airtight jar in the refrigerator (lasts up to two weeks).
  • To begin making your latte, take a medium-sized saucepan and bring a mixture of your milk, a pinch of cinnamon, and about one tablespoon of your sweetener to a boil. Once the edges of your liquid start to boil, remove it from the heat.
  • Using your whisk or an appropriate blender, whisk or blend your milk mixture until it is nice and frothy. This is what a professional milk frother does.
  • Pour ½ of a cup of warm chai tea into a mug. Next, slowly add the frothed milk into the mug with your chai tea. Add some extra cinnamon on top if you would like and enjoy!
  • If you would like to make an iced chai latte. Take ½ of a cup of cold chai concentrate and pour into a mug with a couple ice cubes. Pour your milk over the top and enjoy!

Best Way To Enjoy Chai Coffee

Best Way To Enjoy Chai Coffee

The most common and most popular way to enjoy chai tea is nice and warm in an insulated cup or mug, with extra spice on top of the froth if desired.

In terms of good items to accompany a cup of chai tea, things like milk chocolate, brie cheese, scones, hazelnuts, almonds, and salty snacks are good pairings.

Adding your favorite sweetener or syrup-like vanilla (sugar-free is great), cinnamon dolce, or brown sugar is also a popular route to take.

Iced chai tea lattes are great for hot and sunny days as a way to cool down while enjoying your tea. We highlighted in our final step of the chai tea-making guide above how to make a delicious and refreshing iced chai tea latte.

Conclusion

The world of tea beverages is one that has been changing and evolving for thousands and thousands of years. The variety of beneficial properties, medicinal or not, that different types of tea provide is truly a fascinating thing.

Today we discussed in detail one specific style, and arguably one of the most popular styles of tea, and that is chai tea.

We provided a brief history of the age-old beverage including origins and geographical development, as well as provided a look into some of the most popular and typically used spices in chai tea.

Finally, we broke down the process for making a home-brewed chai tea latte into a step-by-step guide. This includes ingredients, recommended spices, milk and sweetener options, and of course brewing instructions.

We hope that you have learned everything you need to know about chai tea, and how to make your own delicious brew! Thanks for reading.

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Last Updated on May 11, 2022 by Ashok Parmar

My name is Ashok Parmar, and for seven years, I worked as a warehouse manager that strictly dealt with coffee shops all around the United States.

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