The most popular thing, is sometimes the least understood.
Chai is probably one of the most popular blends of tea out there. You can go into almost any cafe, and find a it on the menu. It is the one tea drink that has managed to stay popular during coffee’s second and third wave.
What is chai tea?
Well the word, actually means tea. And it’s used in many parts of the world when talking about plain tea. Here in the states we have come to associate it with the traditional way tea is prepared in India. That means black tea blended with a mixture of spices like cloves, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and pepper, then mixed with milk. The uses of these exact spices are hardly set in stone. The same goes for the ratio of the spices. In India, every family has their own recipe. Some are very adamant to never use ginger! Some prefer more of a clove taste. Some are heavy handed with the cinnamon. Each time you drink a traditional chai, it’s entirely an experience to be savored.
Chai lattes in cafes
While the approximate flavors of Indian chai has maintained a place on most cafe menus, it has in many ways been Americanized. Most cafes in the states will usually use a flavored syrup to approximate the flavor profile. Just a couple pumps of the syrup stirred into some milk. No actual tea brewing is being done. And these syrups are mainly sugar, water, and flavor extracts. This is giving us overly sweet, and less spicy drinks. The art of making the tea was lost.
How to get real chai tea
You could always make it at home. It can be a relaxing process of choosing which spices to use, and how much of each. Or you can choose to support cafes that make them from loose leaf tea. In our cafe, Greater Than Coffee, we use our 4 loose leaf blends. We offer our customers a choice of our Cape Town Chai rooibos, Spiced Buddha green tea, Hood Chai black tea, and Capoeira Chai yerba mate. Each one is blended with spices to compliment the flavor profiles of the tea leaves used. Customers definitely taste the difference between real brewed tea, and sugary syrups.
If your favorite cafe doesn’t offer real chai tea, encourage them to do so. Send them to us and we’ll be happy to talk over their different options.
Let us know how you like to enjoy a cup of this amazing tea.
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