Whether you’re a casual tea drinker or a seasoned tea connoisseur, you’ve undoubtedly come across your local coffee shop offering the tasty and popular beverage known as chai tea.
The History of Chai Tea
The Hindi word for tea, the term chai was originally derived from the Chinese word for tea, “cha.” Chai tea is one of the most popular types of tea enjoyed worldwide and for a good reason. Not only is chai tea incredibly delicious, but it is also believed to provide a whole host of benefits when consumed.
Chai tea has been the tea of choice for cultures around the world for thousands of years. Today, chai tea generally refers to a type of tea that consists of a wide variety of spices, sweeteners, and flavors. There’s even a chocolate chai tea.
In this brief guide, we’ll be exploring the many types of chai tea and cover the secrets to choosing the best chai tea for you.
What Is Chai Tea?
With dozens of known variations, chai tea often consists of a seemingly endless list of tasty spices and flavors including, nutmeg, vanilla, thyme, ginger, as well as a variety of unique tea strands used for the base. A cup of masala chai black tea in India, for example, might provide a uniquely different taste than when enjoyed in China or the United States.
That said, a typical cup of chai tea generally consists of four key components.
You can’t enjoy chai tea without including the most important ingredient. Variations of green and black tea are considered to be the most common, but mate and spices only variations are used as well. The quality of the tea and spices used plays a significant role in the overall taste and flavor of the finished chai tea.
Milk or Similar Alternatives
Used to give the tea a more rich and milky flavor, milk is a key component of most chai tea options. The addition of milk or milk alternatives works to enhance the flavors of the various spices used and in some cases is specifically added to dilute spices that might have a particularly strong flavor.
The type of chai tea is ultimately determined by choice of spices used when brewing the tea. Varying across cultures, it’s common for chai tea to include cinnamon, black pepper, ginger, vanilla, nutmeg as well as a handful of local spices and flavors. Whether you’re looking for a chai tea with a stronger “kick” or prefer something more mellow, chai tea can be crafted specifically for your unique taste.
Lastly, most chai tea beverages today include some sort of sweetener of some kind, including sugar, creamer, honey or even coconut. Like with the addition of milk, added sweetener enhances the full range of spices and flavors bringing the result that much closer to perfection.
While the term chai tea is often used interchangeably to describe different types of tea, with dozens of spices and flavor options, it is one of the most versatile and customizable beverages in the world.
How To Choose The Best Chai Tea
When looking to find the best chai tea to drink, it’s important to understand your options.
First, you can certainly enjoy some tasty chai tea at your local coffee shop. Many speciality locations invest heavily in using high-quality ingredients and follow the most effective process for brewing a delicious cup of chai tea. That said, the quality and consistency can vary depending on where you go. Your local speciality coffee or tea shop will likely provide a better quality tea than a larger coffee chain so keep that in mind when deciding where to order.
Chai Tea Bags
Of course, if you want to be able to have your favorite type of chai tea on demand, you can also order high-quality bagged tea mixed with a wide variety of flavors and spices.
Curious as to how vanilla mint chai tastes? Want to explore a new ginger chai flavor?
With dozens of options to choose from, there’s almost certainly the perfect flavor for you.
Whether you want to enjoy a cup at home or while on the go, chai tea bags are an incredibly popular and convenient option.
Best Chai Tea
If you want to have the absolute best quality chai tea available, you’ll need to know what to look for. Here are three keys to high-quality chai tea.
When ordering or making chai tea, the process used to brew the tea will have a direct impact on how well the tea tastes. If ordering at a local coffee shop, for example, you’ll want to find a place that brews their tea for the right amount of time. At home, using a tea kettle designed explicitly for tea will also work to ensure your tea tastes great.
Quality Ingredients Matter
There’s a reason why most people can quickly tell between a specialty tea that uses high-quality ingredients and a tea that uses the cheapest available ingredients instead. Taste buds don’t lie.
Just as a seasoned Italian chef can taste canned pasta sauce from a mile away, if you don’t use quality ingredients, the taste of your tea will suffer.
Enjoying chai tea made from the best ingredients for the first time is an experience one can’t forget.
Steep Time Matters
Depending on which type of tea and ingredients you use to make chai tea, that will determine the duration in which you need to brew for the best taste. Pulling your bagged tea out too soon might leave your tea a little bland. Leaving your chai tea bag in too long could create an overwhelming flavor.
The best chai tea is brewed for the exact amount of time needed, never longer, or never less. Be sure to understand the proper times for the various teas you use so that you can happily enjoy the result.
Having been perfected for thousands of years, chai tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world for a good reason. Whether you’ve yet to have a cup, or just looking to taste the best chai tea on the market today, we hope this guide helps you choose the right chai tea options for you.