When you catch up with friends for coffee are you that friend that orders a Chai?
“But why? What is it? It’s too sweet for me”, you will hear all the coffee lovers moan. That may be the case for their caffeine-loving souls, but for you, the aromatic blend of Indian spices, the smell of cinnamon, all heated to perfection with a drop of sticky honey is just what 10 am ordered.
Our guide to educating your chai-fearing friends
Keep your non-coffee drinking head up high and school them with your vast knowledge of all things chai. Tea vs latte, how it is prepared, the flavours and origins – you will be the ultimate chai wallah.
Where did Chai come from?
It may be a popular feature on any self-respecting café hot drinks menu, particularly associated with groomed beards, however, chai tea’s origin can be traced back many centuries ago to India, where chai is known as Masala Chai. This simply means mixed spiced tea.
Flavours from the East
Chai tea usually contains a strong black tea mixed with various Indian spices and herbs.
The mix of spice and proportions of flavours can vary but the key ingredients are cardamom, cinnamon, clove, ginger and sometimes even black peppercorns. There is no set recipe for chai nor a specific blend. The ingredients can differ from region to region in India. The black tea base is most often a black tea called Mamiri tea, a type of Assam. The process of curing the tea forms it into granules rather than flat leaf.
True chai tea lovers may turn their nose at chai in the latte form and latte drinkers may sometimes be surprised by an ornate teapot brewing away in front of them.
How to brew a chai tea
Chai tea is a loose-leaf style tea brewed in hot milk, usually with some honey or sugar to sweeten it up. The traditional way to brew chai is to simmer a few teaspoons of the mixture in about 250ml of milk. Once it’s boiling, another 250ml of milk is added and simmered for another 3-5 min, then it is strained and honey is added to taste.
The perfect chai latte
Chai lattes are often made with either a soluble powder or a syrup imitating a chai flavour. These are a lot sweeter than brewed chai tea. Chai lattes are made by dissolving about a tablespoon of powder in a small amount of hot water and then steamed milk is added to form a latte.
The controversial chai latte
Baristas may often throw this technique into the chai tea mix, where they steep some chai leaves in a little bit of water in a milk jug. Then milk is added and the whole lot is steamed (heated) and strained off into a pot for serving. Verdict – it’s not as sweet as a latte, but also not as strong as a brewed tea.
Chai time is anytime
Chai is best had at… any time of the day. Thanks to the much lower caffeine content (about 1/3 of a small coffee) Chai is an all-day drink!
Food and chai matching
You would think that matching the spices and flavours of chai with food would be a challenge but there are foods that match well with their spiced friend. Chai can be enjoyed with a snack of milk chocolate, or even crackers and brie cheese. Some people enjoy having it with scones, to help balance out the richness of the chai.
Still need that extra shot of caffeine? Ask for a Dirty Chai. The flavour of the coffee and chai combined will surprise you and may even convert the most hardened espresso lover!
The baristas at The Roasted Berry will skilfully craft whatever your hot beverage of choice is – be it coffee made with love or the spice of a chai. Don’t miss the selection of sweet and savoury house baked treats to pair with your next drink.