It’s turning cool and crisp, and there’s a pleasing smoky scent to the air. You know what meaning, proper? It’s chai season, my buddies! Right now I’m having fun with what’s probably the world’s largest mug of darkish chocolate chai with sugar, milk, and a wholesome dollop of espresso—excellent for a breezy autumn afternoon.

“But wait,” you could be asking, “what exactly is chai?” Some of you may also be not sure of the distinction between masala chai and all different chai, whereas there are these of you who’re cautious of the caffeine. As a seasoned chai lover, I’ve heard all these items and extra. Fortunately for you, meaning I even have some solutions.

Chai mug by Carrie Keplinger

What Is Chai?

“Chai” or “cha” is a typical phrase for tea all through Asia. (Saying “chai tea” is definitely redundant, and sure tea snobs will choose you for utilizing the phrase.) When we are saying “chai” right now, nonetheless, we virtually at all times imply a spiced tea with milk and sweetener, and we’re often considering of masala chai—which we’ll delve into in additional element in only a bit.

The fact is, there are virtually as many variations of chai as there are styles of tea. In India, the place most folk agree our fashionable spiced brew originated, chai recipes differ from area to area, chai wallah to chai wallah, and household to household. It all comes all the way down to accessible elements and particular person taste, that means there’s fairly actually a chai for everybody.

Black Chai

The most typical sort of chai is masala chai, which originates in India and is made up of 4 fundamental elements: black tea, spices, milk, and sweetener.
Black chai photo by Carrie Keplinger
The spice combination is known as karha, and whereas the explicit spices used can differ, it virtually at all times has a base of floor ginger and inexperienced cardamom pods. Other spices are added relying on the tastes of the blender and may embody cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, peppercorn, nutmeg, and cloves. When masala chai is getting used medicinally, as it’s in Ayurveda and conventional Chinese drugs, it isn’t unusual so as to add mace, chili, coriander, cumin, or turmeric.

Here in the United States, after all, our hottest taste additions to masala chai are vanilla and—my favourite—chocolate. Let’s not overlook the seasonal pumpkin! That’s proper: Your favourite fall latte is actually good outdated chai with pumpkin flavoring.

One considerably shocking twist—no less than for Westerners—is pudina chai. Pudina doesn’t comprise karha; as a substitute, it’s black tea steeped with mint leaves in milk and water, sweetened to taste. I don’t suppose there’s any rule towards including spices—I’ve seen some recipes that decision for ginger—but it surely doesn’t appear as widespread. Pudina chai makes a beautiful after-dinner digestif or a soothing treatment for an upset abdomen.

Green Chai

Green chai photo by Carrie KeplingerAlthough masala chai is the most well-known of the spiced teas, inexperienced chai has been gaining reputation. At first, I believed this was merely a contemporary Western invention, but it surely seems that spiced inexperienced tea has agency roots in the Middle East.

Kashmiri chai, referred to as kahwah, is made with inexperienced tea, almonds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and generally saffron and roses. It is often served with sugar or honey and often with out milk. Regionally, you’ll discover kahwah in Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, and—after all—the Kashmir Valley.

Other variations of inexperienced chai would possibly embody citrus peel and peppercorns in addition to masala or kashmiri spices. It will be loved with sweetener and with or with out milk. It’s typically decrease in caffeine than chai made with black tea.

Other Chai

Mate photo by AlvimannThanks to the rising reputation of chai in the United States, some new teas have entered the scene, making for much more various—and scrumptious—selections.

Chai made with white tea typically contains elements akin to coconut, pineapple, apple, and lemongrass along with karha. Low in caffeine, it makes a beautiful cup to sip in the night or after a meal. The spices undoubtedly take middle stage; you gained’t wish to add any milk, however a little bit of honey will assist improve the flavors properly.

If you’re on the lookout for a chai that’s fully caffeine free, pink chai could also be your new greatest buddy. Made from the African pink bush, or rooibos, this antioxidant-rich herb blends properly with spices and will be ready with milk and sweetener identical to your conventional masala chai.

There can be maté chai, a mix of yerba maté, spices, and generally dried fruit. Like rooibos, it may arise properly to take advantage of and sugar, however it’s decidedly not caffeine free.

Blending Your Own Chai

Since chai is such a diversified and private beverage, it is smart that you simply would possibly wish to mix your personal. Start by selecting a tea, then mix it with spices you take pleasure in. The quantities you employ are as much as you!

As for the spices themselves, you need to use powdered or complete; simply make all of them powdered or all complete so your mix will combine correctly. Make positive your entire elements are as recent and prime quality as you possibly can afford for the greatest taste.

Recommended spices and flavors embody:

Spices photo by Kris Krugallspice
licorice root
orange peel
rose petals

Preparing Chai

Remember how I stated there have been many various sorts of chai? Well, the similar is true for the beverage’s preparation—there are dozens of the way to do it, and none of them are mistaken.

The most blatant methodology is to dunk a teabag right into a cup of scorching water or to make use of an infuser with unfastened leaf tea, including sweetener and milk at the finish—completely acceptable! Some people, although, want to boil their teabag with the water, and generally with the water and milk together.

In India, one widespread methodology is to make chai in a pot on the range by simmering the water and spices collectively for five or 10 minutes, then including the milk and sugar. Once the combination is simmering once more, the tea leaves are added, the lid of the pot is popped on, and the warmth is turned off. After a couple of minutes, the tea is strained into cups and served. If that seems like an excessive amount of work, one other methodology is to mix every little thing—tea, spices, water, milk, and sweetener—in the pan directly and simmer.

When making ready with chai, you need to be at liberty to mess around a bit! Try completely different strategies and see what works greatest for you.
Chai Wallah photo by Jorge Royan
all photographs by writer except in any other case famous

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