It’s January, which means most of you reading this are experiencing cold weather – or at least colder than you have the rest of the year. What’s a great beverage to enjoy to warm you up from the inside out? Chai! If you’re a chai fan, you know. If you’re not, then it’s chai time you tried it!
What Is Chai Tea?
What is “chai,” you ask? Well, the origins of it go back either thousands of years ago to a king in either India or Thailand. The king mixed together what are now known as chai spices as a healing Ayurvedic medicine. At the time, black tea was not part of the mixture.
Jump ahead to the mid-19th century when the British East India Company had begun smuggling tea plants out of China and creating tea plantations in their colony, India. While black tea began to be more available in India – even though India did have a native Assamica tea plant available for production – it was still quite expensive for the average citizen. To lessen the amount of tea needed per cup, they began adding chai spices and milk to it, making it a more affordable beverage. Also, the India Tea Company began promoting tea breaks for workers as a vehicle for selling more tea. Adding to tea’s rise in popularity was the fact that in the 1930s, there was an oversupply of Indian tea that the British tea companies began selling to the Indians.
The true game-changer for making chai wildly popular was the introduction of CTC teas, a much more efficient method of processing the black tea that results in a far more affordable tea. It became the perfect storm for making chai India’s national drink.
What Does Chai Mean?
The word “chai” is the Hindi word for “tea.” It was derived from “cha,” the Chinese word for “tea.” (See our Tea Etymology blog to discover how a tea’s geographical source location played into how the variations on the word “tea” evolved.) “Masala chai,” another phrase you’ll hear, means “spiced tea,” which is what “chai” has become synonymous with.
Chai recipes vary by region and personal preference. Traditionally, chai is a black tea mixed with strong spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, and black peppercorns. When folks around these parts say “chai,” they are generally referring to what is known as “masala chai.” As you’ll have seen in our Tea Etymology post, to say “chai tea” literally translates to “tea tea.” It’s okay to be an American and say that here, but in other parts of the world, they might look at you a little funny.
Speaking of other parts of the world, in India, most citizens consume three to four cups of chai daily. Chaiwalas, or chaiwallahs, either spelling meaning “tea person,” are ubiquitous in India. They prepare, sell, and serve chai from corner stands and small shops. Chaiwalas and others generally prepare chai from scratch with fresh ingredients. Here in the U.S., we’re more likely to prepare chai with a premade blend of black tea and spices.
Harney offers several chai tea options:
- Chai, our own sweet and spicy blend of black tea with cardamom flavor, cardamom, nutmeg, and vanilla flavor
- Chocolate Chai Supreme, a customer creation and winner of our 2018 Tea Blendings contest
- Chai Hara, a green tea version of our Chai black tea
- Organic Rooibos Chai, an herbal version of a classic chai
- Indian Spice, a black tea with cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg
- Chaga Chai from our Wellness collection made with wild Canadian Chaga mushrooms and chai spices
- Chai Concentrate, for those times when waiting for your chai just isn’t an option
How to Make Chai Tea
Whether you prepare it using loose leaf, sachets, or teabags, brewing chai is no different than brewing other teas unless you choose to make it with all fresh ingredients instead of using a tea with the spices already blended in (like we offer). You can use milk if you wish (your favorite kind will work just fine) and add the sweetener of your choice (or don’t!). Or you can use a combination of milk and water to steep your chai leaves. If you prefer an iced chai, steep your tea in hot water, but don’t heat the milk and pour it all over ice.
Chai Tea Recipes
In addition to simply enjoying wonderful chai on its own, with all its wonderful spices, chai is a natural for using in recipes. We’ve come up with a couple of new chai recipes for you to try and in case you missed them, you can also check out our Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte, Chai Tea Pumpkin Pie, and Pumpkin Chai Muffins recipes.
- 2 oz (¼ C) water
- 6 oz (¾ C) milk of choice
- 2 Chai teabags or sachets, or 2 tsp. loose
- 1 tsp caramel syrup
- Whipped cream and additional caramel syrup for topping, if desired
- In a saucepan, bring water and milk to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add tea. Remove from heat and let steep for 5 minutes.
- Discard tea and stir in caramel syrup. Pour into mug and top with whipped cream and caramel drizzle, if desired.
Download the recipe.
You’ll need a symmetrical-shaped 1 tablespoon capacity silicone mold.
2 C chocolate candy melts
2 C hot chocolate mix
2 C mini marshmallows
2 C colored sprinkles
4 Chocolate Chai Supreme sachets
8 oz (1 C) water
½ C white chocolate candy melts
- Brew the sachets of Chocolate Chai Supreme Tea in 8 oz. (1 C) of fresh water. Remove sachets and let cool.
- Place chocolate candy melts in a microwave-safe bowl and melt in the microwave per the directions on the package.
- Place 1 tablespoon candy melt into one half of your mold and, using the bottom of your tablespoon measuring spoon, press the chocolate up the sides of the mold, keeping it thick but even. Repeat with 12 bomb mold halves.
- Place the chocolate-filled bomb molds into the freezer for 5 minutes.
- Remove the molds from the freezer and gently peel the silicone mold away from the chocolate cups.
- Fill 6 of the molds with 1 tablespoon of hot chocolate mix and 1 tablespoon of chai tea. Allow the tea to soak into the hot chocolate mix in order to help the marshmallows from melting from contact with the tea. This should take 2-3 minutes.
- Add some sprinkles and 6-8 marshmallows on top of the tea/cocoa mixture.
- Heat a plate or a flat-bottom bowl in the microwave until the surface of the plate is warm to the touch.
- Press one of the empty chocolate bomb halves open side down onto the flat portion of the warm plate for about 10 seconds. This will gently melt the rim of the chocolate cup.
- Immediately press this warmed-edge chocolate cup to the top of one of the filled cups. This will join the 2 halves of the hot cocoa bomb. If desired, add more of the chocolate melts to help shore up that joint.
- Place white chocolate candy melts in a microwave-safe bowl and melt in the microwave per the directions on the package.
- Using a piping bag or a fork, drizzle the white candy melts over the assembled hot cocoa bombs, then immediately follow by adding more sprinkles on top.
- Place the hot cocoa bombs into the freezer for 5 minutes to get them to set, then remove and store in an airtight container until you’re ready to use.
- To use the hot cocoa bombs, place them in a mug and pour 2 cups of hot milk over the top. Stir until the cocoa bombs are completely melted and enjoy!
Download the recipe.