Deconstructing Chai: How to Personalize Your Chai
December 8, 2021
Chai is comforting, warming and rejuvenating — no wonder it is beloved by tea drinkers around the globe. The history of chai is fascinating: it is thought to have originated 5,000 years ago as an Ayurvedic healing tonic. This ancient infusion consisted only of a blend of potent spices — no tea leaves.
When the British colonized India and began cultivating the Camellia sinensis plant locally, they added black tea leaves, milk and sugar to the traditional beverage. This version of chai (known in India as masala chai, meaning spiced tea) became India’s most popular beverage, and is the variation enjoyed by tea drinkers in cafes and kitchens around the world today.
Preparing the perfect cup of chai is all about the ratio of tea leaves, spices, milk and sweetener. You can adjust these ratios and even experiment with adding other ingredients to personalize your chai to your tastes. Below, discover the traditional ingredients used in chai and ideas for customizing your cuppa.
Chai usually consists of a base of strong black tea such as Assam or Darjeeling. The bold, rich, full-bodied flavor and aroma of these varietals is a good match for the blend of exotic spices that are traditionally present in chai.
However, chai can also be prepared using red tea (rooibos) and green tea leaves. These are good alternatives if you are seeking a slightly different flavor profile, or if you prefer a low caffeine or caffeine-free chai.
Spices are what truly make a difference to the final flavor and aroma of a cup of chai. Traditional chai spices include cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, star anise and black pepper. Other spices that are sometimes added to chai include coriander, nutmeg and fennel. In India, every region, family and chai wallah (street vendors who sell freshly steeped masala chai in public areas) have their own recipes.
Tea drinkers can adapt their chai to their liking by adjusting the ratios of spices, or even by adding entirely different ingredients to their cuppa. For example, vanilla makes a delicious addition to a cup of hot spiced chai. You could also add chocolate, lavender, turmeric or pumpkin pie spices. Our Mushroom Cacao Chai blends traditional chai spices with cacao and adaptogenic reishi mushroom for an earthy, chocolatey infusion.
Even simple changes can impact the flavor of a cup of chai. You may find that you prefer a more pepper-forward cup, or that you prefer doubling up on cinnamon and omitting ginger. Experimentation is the best way to discover your unique flavor preferences.
Traditional chai is almost always served with milk. In India, whole milk is the preferred variety (and this milk is often sourced from buffaloes rather than cows). Of course, you may use whichever variety of milk you prefer based on your flavor preferences and dietary needs.
Soy milk and oat milk both have rich, creamy textures that pair deliciously with chai spices and black tea. Almond milk is less creamy, but has a smooth consistency and mild nutty taste that works well for preparing chai. If you enjoy the taste of coconut, you will love the velvety texture of coconut milk in your chai. Other nut milks such as cashew, macadamia and hazelnut can also be used to prepare chai.
In India, plain white sugar is the sweetener of choice. But your options do not need to stop there. Honey, maple syrup and agave nectar are three natural sweeteners that will each lend their own unique flavors to a cup of chai. For a zero-calorie sugar alternative, we recommend our keto-friendly sweetener made with all-natural monk fruit.
We hope these ideas have sparked some inspiration for how to personalize your cup of chai. No matter which ratio or recipe you use, be sure to savor sip by sip.