If you’re on the prowl for your next caffeine buzz and want to try something new, a chai latte might be the perfect fit. This unique blend of tea and milk makes a delightful morning beverage for anyone, from tea lovers to coffee connoisseurs.
What is Chai?
Chai, sometimes called masala chai, is made from a blend of tea and spices sourced from the Assam region of India. The exact ingredients used to create chai may vary from source to source, but it generally includes Assam or Darjeeling tea leaves and other spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves and cardamom.
Chai has been a popular beverage for over 5,000 years, and with good reason. For much of history it was considered a luxurious import, and thus was very expensive. However, in the modern world, it’s easy to find and you can even make it at home.
How a Chai Latte is Made
By itself, chai can be brewed as a tea from whole leaves or using powdered concentrate. At home, you can choose to use either of these methods, but most baristas much prefer to use concentrate, because it’s more cost effective and easier to blend into multiple types of drinks.
Chai becomes a chai latte when you add steamed milk to the tea. This is done using a milk frother. The steamed milk adds creaminess and mellows out the naturally bitter flavor of chai, without diluting its taste or compromising its energizing properties.
You can also order a “dirty” chai latte at your local Starbucks or other coffee shop, which lets the barista know to add an espresso shot to your beverage. This provides an extra kick, albeit at the expense of the drink’s sweetness. If you’re not afraid of bitterness, this could be a great opportunity to capitalize on chai’s natural caffeine content and kickstart your day.
What Does it Taste Like?
Chai is described as having a distinct flavor which strikes a balance between sweet and spicy. It can be somewhat bitter and is an acquired taste, but many people adore its natural kick and unique flavor.
Making a Chai Latte at Home
If you want to make a chai latte at home, it’s not as tricky as you might expect. If you want to create a chai latte of coffee shop caliber, you’ll first need to purchase a milk frother. Fortunately, milk frothers are relatively inexpensive, running about $20 apiece on Amazon.
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If you can’t afford one right now, that’s fine too! You’ll simply have to whisk the milk by hand.
You’ll also need to purchase the chai itself, which you can find easily online. I recommend using the chai concentrate. The flavor remains the same, but it’s more versatile. However, you can also use tea bags. Once you’ve got your milk frother and chai, you can start your journey toward the perfect chai latte.
Here’s how you can make a chai latte at home:
- First, brew the tea. If you’re using tea bags, this is easy. Just boil a cup of water and submerge the tea bag. Let it steep for 3-5 minutes, and then discard the tea bag. If you’re using chai concentrate, simply dissolve the powder into the boiling water and stir it with a spoon.
- Next, froth the milk. If you’re using a milk frother, this will only take a minute. On the other hand, if you’re whisking the milk by hand, it may take a while to get it to the foamy consistency you want.
- Pour the steamed milk over the chai and top it with a dash of cinnamon!
Add-Ons & Extras
If you want to add a little extra flavor to your chai latte, there are ingredients you can top it with or stir in to adjust the taste. Chai is composed of a wide variety of spices and herbs, making it easy to add extras that work with its flavor profile. Here are some things you can add to your chai latte:
- Sugar or sweetener
- Oat milk
- Flavored syrup
- Half n’ Half
- Caramel drizzle
- Whipped cream
Caffeine & Tannins
For those of who love chai, a large part of the appeal is the unique way it energizes us. Chai on its own contains just about 26 mg of caffeine, which may seem underwhelming compared to the 100 mg present in a standard cup of coffee. However, that caffeine content is bolstered by the tannins present in the tea.
Tannins are chemicals naturally present in different forms of plant matter, including our beloved chai. Plants develop tannins as a means of deterring animals who might attempt to eat them, but humans have come to love the flavor. Tannins are also present in things like chocolate, coffee, and wine.
The tannins present in chai react with its caffeine content, changing the way we metabolize it and create energy. Where a cup of coffee might provide a quick, fleeting burst of energy, chai will make sure that energy lasts longer, and it won’t set you up for an afternoon crash.
The Perfect Start to Your Day
Whether you’re looking for an alternative to your morning coffee or just thinking of trying something new, a chai latte is certainly worth a try. Its unique flavor and energy boosting qualities make it a great start to your day, and you can even create one from the comfort of your own home.