The tea on chai
SPICE THINGS UP WITH MODERN TAKES ON A TRADITIONAL INDIAN BEVERAGE
Literally translated to mean tea, chai is the term used to describe black tea that originates in India. Over time, chai has become a beverage that many enjoy every day. It’s supposed to have originated 5000-9000 years ago, and since then has been drunk completely incorrectly.
In the 1800s, the British camped at tea farms in Assam, where they first stumbled upon masala chai. Since then, it has travelled across the world.
Made up of three components (tea, milk and spices), chai’s base is black tea made with freshly ground ginger and spices. It can be mixed with other traditional Indian teas for extra aroma and flavour. The milk adds a creamy element that enhances the chai flavour.
Any spices can be added to chai – the most common being cardamom. In comparison, the chai we taste in lattes today is created from a syrup concentration, rather than freshly ground ingredients.
WHAT’S A CHAI LATTE?
A mixture of black tea, foamed milk and spices, modern baristas have taken the foundation of traditional chai and transformed it into a familiar taste and look for the cafe crowd.
The present-day chai latte is created by steeped Assam black tea in milk, instead of the original way, in water.
Traditionally, chai would be sweetened with extra teas or natural sweeteners like sugarcane or honey. However, the sweet milky taste we experience today comes from additional syrups and sugars.
IS IT COFFEE?
This misconception arises because chai is served in cafes alongside coffee. We think of a chai latte as a coffee latte because of its frothy milk and creamy texture. But there is no addition of any kind of espresso in a chai.
CHAI AT HOME
Today, we’re able to enjoy chai lattes from the comfort of our homes and save money in the process. Keeping a bottle of homemade chai tea syrup in the fridge can help you save money, especially when everyone in the family wants a cafe-style chai.
You can also drizzle it over porridge, and use chai spices in a variety of recipes, both sweet and savoury.
Try chai syrup in cocktails, milkshakes and frappes, and use the spices in an apple crumble, or as an unexpected twist in a pumpkin soup.