Although many people use the phrase “chai tea” to describe a popular blend of hot tea and spices, the term is somewhat redundant. The word “chai” translates literally to mean “tea” in Hindi, like the Cantonese word “cha,” which means the same thing. The chai latte (commonly, though incorrectly, referred to as a “chai tea latte”) is a cold-weather favourite for many, evoking a sense of cosiness with each sip of spiced tea and warm, frothed milk. No matter what you call it, this beloved café beverage can be made at home with proper instructions and a bit of practice.
WHAT IS CHAI?
When a barista prepares a chai latte, they’re likely using Masala chai as the primary ingredient. This tea blend hails from India and is made with autumnal spices like nutmeg, cardamom and ginger. These flavours intertwine and remind us of crisp fall leaves and scarf weather, perfect for enjoying once September’s equinox arrives and we notice daylight growing shorter. Likewise, Tea Forté’s Bombay Chai is blended with black tea from the Nilgiri region of South India near Assam and Darjeeling, the two most important regions for black tea production in the country. The blend is a delicately composed mélange of tea leaves, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, star anise, and black pepper. Made correctly with tea, water, milk, and a touch of honey, the process of preparing a chai latte is really rather simple.
Begin with a fine quality spiced chai and prepare it as you normally would, except reduce the amount of water to one-quarter cup. The rest of the liquid will be replaced with warm milk. See below for instructions to make an 8oz latte:
For black and herbal teas, heat 60ml of water to 98 degrees celsius. Then add 1 tsp of loose leaf tea into an infuser basket, or use 1 pyramid infuser, and place it in your cup. Pour the hot water over the tea leaves and steep for 3-5 minutes. The longer the steep, the bolder the flavour. Since you’ll be adding milk, consider letting it steep for the full five minutes for a robust latte, full of character. Remove the tea infuser (or infuser basket) and pour 6oz of warm milk into your cup. Add honey, amber tea sugar, or your favourite sweetener to taste. Top with foamed milk and a dash of cinnamon and enjoy!
HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHAI
Like its black tea counterparts, spiced chai blends boast a powerful array of antioxidants in every cup. Medical research continues to deepen its exploration into tea’s benefits, while early signs indicate that tea may offer anticarcinogenic properties, as well as the ability to promote cardiovascular health and fight inflammation and even slow some signs of aging. Moderation is key, and many researchers agree that anywhere from one to three cups per day (with limited sweeteners and other additions) may be a wise choice for health-conscious tea lovers. So, once you’ve perfected the art of the homemade chai latte, raise a warm, spiced cup to your health and enjoy.