I don’t know about you, but for me Chai Time is simply any time. Naturally we feel drawn to a sweet, spicy, warm and creamy cup of the perfect brew when it is cold and rainy. But after a visit to the mystical India earlier this year, I learnt that a fresh cup of chai can be delicious even in 40 degree celsius heat (and that was the end of their winter)… That’s approximately 105 degrees Farenheit for all you American folk.
On the topic of India – the home of chai – it is important to note that the word chai itself simply means tea. So if you’re planning on ordering a cup on your next visit, be sure to ask for a Masala Chai to ensure you’re getting what you so fondly know and love – a spiced tea. In India, the Masala Chai is brewed with fresh full fat cow’s milk, or sometimes buffalo milk. Oh and a lot of sugar!
Unfortunately, with the craze of chai in the west today, there has been a mass production of artificial chai powders and syrups to make that oh-so-delicious chai latte you have grabbed on-the-go. Maybe you weren’t aware that when you ordered your chai latte that is was simply flavoured, sweetened powder or syrup, with absolutely no tea or spices what so ever? It makes me cringe. However, happily I have stumbled upon a couple of conscious cafes around that are brewing a chai latte on real chai tea (loose leaf) with milk – the way it should be. Although, I’m guessing for most of you out there, mastering the creamy and sweet chai that we love can be daunting.
For those adventurous types out there, feel free to make your chai from scratch using your choice of black tea and accompanying spices. However, there are so many beautiful loose leaf chai mixes on the market, you can very easily find one that tantalises your taste buds. The following are worth a mention:
Organic India make a variety of Masala Chai mixes. I picked up some on my visit to India this year. I’m a huge fan of the Tulsi Ginger and the Tulsi Chai Masala. You can easily find this brand outside of India. I do know it is stocked in Australia and America. Tulsi is widely used in India. It is a sacred herb, a “holy basil”, with many medicinal benefits and it is high in antioxidants. There are three varieties of Tulsi: Rama, Krishna and Vana Tulsi.
Bon Chai is a local (to me) business run by Jane Spiteri. Jane has certainly mastered the perfect kick of spice in her chai with the highest ingredient being cinnamon, plus a little chilli. This particular chai is served up at a bunch of local cafes, and is sold at a few health food stores around town. Find Jane regularly at the markets, where you can look, smell, touch and taste this beautiful blend. Keep your eye out for the vibrant coloured labelling!
Aussie company T2 Tea (or Tea Too) have released a huge list of new chai blends (Including a certified organic classic chai). They offer your typical chai on a base of black tea, along with a couple of herbal varieties, plus a few blends based on green, white, oolong and rooibos tea (talk about exotic!). I am also a fan of the Green Tea Ginger Chai, Mixed Up Red Chai and the Ayurvedic range consisting of the Ayurvedic Herbal Chai, Ayurvedic Vata Boom, and the Ayurvedic Tea Chai – all to be served with hot water only, no milk.
If you’re interested in the Ayurvedic Tea blends from T2, know that the Vata Boom is appropriate for those of a Vata constitution. Pitta’s, do not fear the ginger found in the Ayurvedic Herbal Chai, as it is balanced nicely with cooling peppermint – this tea is quite Tri-Doshic. Lastly the Ayurvedic Tea Chai would be ok for all doshas, however I believe it would be best for Kapha types, due to the caffeine (green & white tea) plus the warming, sweet fruits and spices.
So you are keen to get brewing? The big key secret in making a creamy luscious chai is to use 50% water (tea), and 50% milk. None of this ‘dash of milk’ business! Brew your tea in boiling water (assuming it’s a chai based on black tea, or it is completely herbal). If the tea is made on a base of black tea, only brew for 2-3 minutes and then remove the leaves, otherwise you will overbrew the tea and there will be a bitterness to the flavour. If your chai is herbal, feel free to brew for as long as desired… Oh and I loosely use the rule of using a teaspoon of tea per person/cup.
Whilst brewing your tea, warm your choice of milk (remembering the 50/50 principle above). The tea/water at this point will be like a tea concentrate. Remove the tea leaves from your brew, add the warmed milk and stir to combine. Add any sweetener you wish – if you need it.
Feel free to use any milk you desire. Be mindful however, that the flavour of your chai will change depending on what milk you use. I mostly use an organic oat milk. But feel free to experiment with (full fat) cow’s milk (like they do it in India), organic non-GMO soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, etc. Or go all out and make your own milk at home if you fancy!
As for sweeteners, I do love using raw local honey. Also, raw sugar is a great choice. But again, it is whatever you like best. Maybe just a cinnamon stick in your tea pot is enough?
A key point to consider – The milk needs to be warmed, as this will help the sweeteners dissolve properly, and also keep your chai at a nice warm temperature.
If you have the time, the best way to brew via these instructions is in a pot on your stove top. But you can absolutely do this in your pretty tea pot, or even directly into your cup.
I really do love the ritual of making a ‘cuppa’. And chai tea is just one of the many varieties of tea that I’m passionate about. This post has certainly inspired me to continue writing about tea – green, white, herbal, black, oolong, red.. it’s all coming! I hope it has also inspired you.
Let me know about your love for chai, or any tea for that matter. And be sure to share your secret formulas, questions and experiences!
I’m off to brew a cuppa. Come and join me!