What’s Chai Tea?

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Chai tea, also known as masala chai, is a spiced milk tea from India. Traditional recipes involve grinding fresh spices and simmering with black tea, milk, and sugar. Convenient options include dry mixes and pre-prepared cartons, while new variations include adding vanilla, nutmeg, or chocolate.

Chai tea is quite a misnomer, as “chai” itself means tea in Hindi. This spiced milk tea is sometimes called masala chai. Traditionally, Indian tea takes a long time to produce fresh ingredients that are slowly ground. Spices, milk, black tea and sugar are the key ingredients.

To make this tea using a traditional recipe, gather fresh spices from an Asian or Indian market. Take cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, whole black or white pepper seeds, a cardamom pod and grind them together into a powder. With chopped ginger root, add this mixture to a liquid of two parts one-half and one-half to three parts water. Use a strong black tea from Asia such as Darjeeling, Ceylon or Assam blends, instead of a green tea. Black tea has been oxidized, has more tannins and greater pungency. This concoction heats over a simmering, boiling heat for an hour, unlike steeping tea which only takes a few minutes. Strain the spices and add a teaspoon of sugar to bring out the spiciness without excessive sweetening. Your cup of chai is ready to ease your nerves and warm your soul.

Due to the growing popularity of this oriental tea in the West, products now make chai more convenient to serve. Dry mixes, similar to instant hot chocolate, are blended with hot milk, for a quick brew. Pre-prepared and packaged chai is also sold as a carton of latte to be enjoyed hot or iced. Connoisseurs can even make a concentrated blend of spices and teas, with no milk and less water, to keep in the fridge. When you’re ready to stir, heat it on the stove with milk and sugar or honey to your desired strength.

New concoctions with a chai base create new tastes and varieties. As chai becomes a staple on coffee shop and tea room menus, people add vanilla, nutmeg, chocolate, coriander, soy or fennel seeds. Experiment with different proportions of spices or other dairy products such as ice cream, to create your own individual concoction.

For chai tea recipes, simply enter “chai tea recipes” into your favorite search engine.

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