January 8

The Taste of Chai Tea, Chai Lattes, and Dirty Chai’s Explained

Written by: Jason

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Chai, a strong black tea mixed with aromatic spices and milk, is a popular drink domestically and abroad.

Chai is a Hindi word meaning tea, derived from the Chinese word cha, which means tea.

Recipes vary from region to region, but the sweet version we get at a coffee shop has very little to do with the original variation. 

There are many chai iterations today, and we are going to look at exactly what those are and how they can be enjoyed. 

What is Chai? 

cup-of-tea-and-plant

Chai is a blend of herbs and spices mixed with strong black tea, milk, and sugar.

Chai in America means a strong flavored tea. However, Chai is a way of life in India, and when you say “chai tea,” you are saying “tea tea.”

This drink is thousands of years old and was used for its healing properties.

The heat from the ginger and black peppercorns is good for the digestive system, cloves as an antiseptic, and the cardamom for mood elevation.

Authentic chai still contains these properties and has many healing benefits, as well as a unique and desirable flavor.

Indian chai culture is a derivative of British tea. When the British East Indian Company was thriving, tea from Assam was one of their biggest commodities. 

Indians started taking their tea in the traditional British way, black with sugar and milk, and added their spices to it, making it authentically Indian.


What Can I Expect When Trying Chai Tea?

chai-tea-set-up

The flavor of chai is unlike any other tea.

It is rich in spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, whole milk, and anise. Pepper, fennel, coriander, and nutmeg are sometimes used but are not as common as the main ingredients.

As with all things in the culinary world, fresh, whole spices always make the best chai.

Common white sugar is the sweetener used in chai, much more than in regular tea. Jaggery, unrefined raw sugar, is also used, but is hard to find in America.

Sugar adds sweetness to the unique flavor combinations from the spices, and also blends well with the whole milk. 


What is Chai Concentrate? Is it Good?

Chai concentrate is an infusion of black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger root, star anise, and sugar, with vanilla and honey as optional ingredients. It is often used to make chai lattes. 

The concentrate has more caffeine than regular chai, with 35 milligrams of caffeine compared to 25 milligrams. However, it is a fraction of the caffeine that a cup of coffee has.

It's best to use cinnamon sticks and whole cloves so they can be toasted before the infusion, which extracts more flavor for the concentrate.


Does Chai Have Caffeine?

two-cups-of-chai-tea-and-twinkling-lights

Chai does a moderate level of caffeine.

Though chai is made up of multiple ingredients, only the black tea leaves contain caffeine, and this is a minimal amount.

Powdered chai has an average of 25-30 milligrams, while the concentrate contains approximately 30-35 milligrams of caffeine.


On the other hand, a cup of coffee contains 120 milligrams of caffaine per serving.


What is a Chai Latte?

chair-latte

A chai latte is a hot drink made with spiced black tea and steamed milk. A chai concentrate is often used, especially in coffee shops serving this drink. 

There are many variations, particularly concerning what spices are used. Ginger is among the favorite additions to a chai latte.


What is an Iced Chai?

Iced chai combines black tea, the classic chai spice blend, and milk. It is basically a chai latte over ice.

Iced chais are made with chai concentrate, and espresso can be added for an additional kick. The espresso not only adds caffeine but also a unique flavor to this already flavorful brew.


What is a Dirty Chai?

iced-chai-latte

A dirty chai is a chai latte or an iced chai with an added shot of espresso. Make it a double shot of espresso, and you have a filthy chai.

As explained above, the dirty chai adds its unique flavor and caffeine boost to an already delicious brew.

If you haven't experienced this drink, it is a must! Especially for all you caffeine worshipers out there.


How Do I Make My Own Chai Tea?

jar-of-chai-mix

Chai tea is not overly complicated to make, but there are a lot of ingredients.

Of course, additional ingredients can be added or even taken away, but here are the authentic Masala chai ingredients.

You will need:

filtered water
cinnamon sticks
cloves
cardamom pods
black peppercorns
fennel seeds
fresh ginger
cane sugar
black tea bags
whole milk

Check out this recipe for a traditional Indian chai blend.

As mentioned above, whole spices are better than ground versions so that more flavor can be extracted; the point of chai is a spice-infused tea with milk to cut down on the spiciness of the herbs.


Can I Make My Own Chai Tea Latte?

Traditional chai lattes are not hard to make. It is simply black tea, a chai spice blend, and hot milk.

However, there are plenty of variations to choose from, which brings the fun into making this flavorful drink.

The milk can be frothed, and an incredible amount of spices can be added, like cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and black pepper. 

The great thing about making this beverage at home is that you can adjust the flavor to your particular preferences.

So, yes, you can make your chai latte, and you can even make your own variation to suit your liking.

Check out this Easy Chai Latte Recipe.


How Long Does Chai Tea and Concentrate Last?

cup-of-chai-tea

Actual chai lasts up to two years if stored in an airtight container. The spices and the black tea will keep the mixture fresh and flavorful.

Chai concentrate will last up to five days, but the shelf life can be extended by adding one teaspoon of citric acid per quart of water.

The concentrate can also be frozen for up to three months.

You can check out our article How Long Does Tea Last? for more insight.


Conclusion

There is a reason this beverage has been around for over 5,000 years; it has a remarkable flavor profile and is full of health benefits.

Chai tea is really an exceptional drink with many spices, giving it a flavor unlike any other beverage.

It's also a fun beverage to make, as it's not complicated to brew, and has many variations. You can experiment and make exactly how you like it!

The concentrate can be made with chai, which is great for single servings.

Have fun with your blend, and make sure to share your recipes!

Jason


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About the author

Jason Phillips is a recipe developer, culinary arts graduate, and coffee connoisseur. After culinary school, he cooked professionally for a while and published a cookbook his chef instructor advised him to write. Jason has a passion for culinary arts and coffee and is always looking for new, innovative recipes. He loves creating chef-quality meals that are also simple to make so that any home cook can do the same.

Jason’s cookbook is The Sea Cook: Recipes and Tales From The Galley. The book chronicles his journey as a cook onboard offshore tugboats and the places he has traveled.

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