In today's culture, it's so easy to get confused about what specific things are since varieties of one thing are so readily available. Ever since coffee shops like Starbucks have introduced things like "chai lattes," it raises the question, is a chai latte coffee or tea?
Chai latte is tea with steamed milk, but it is not coffee. Chai translates to "tea" in Hindi, so the only time chai is coffee is when it's a dirty chai latte (chai with an espresso shot). Lattes are associated with coffee, so it's pretty common for people to think a chai latte is coffee.
There are tons of mumbo jumbo surrounding chai and how it's made, but one thing you can be sure of is that chai is and always will be a traditional Indian tea.
Keep reading to learn the nuances of chai beverages and how this spiced tea can benefit you.
Chai Latte vs. Coffee: What's the Difference?
The difference between a chai latte and coffee is that chai doesn't contain coffee unless it's a dirty chai latte. Although chai has caffeine content like most teas, it's not made with any coffee beans, so there's much less caffeine in chai than a regular cup of joe.
Many people who want to decrease their caffeine intake switch to chai or other teas for this reason.
A common misconception is that any beverage containing the word "latte" HAS to be coffee, right? Wrong. Latte means milk in Italian, so ordering a latte in Italy will get you a cup of steamed milk unless you state you want a caffe latte.
In that case, you'd get milk with espresso.
Although "lattes" are a shortened English version of the beverage "caffe latte," keep in mind that latte simply means milk.
A chai latte is still tea, just with some steamed milk.
How To Make Traditional Masala Chai
Masala Chai is the full name for this tea, meaning spiced tea. A lot of people say "chai tea," but that translates to "tea tea," the same way naan means bread, but many say "naan bread."
If you want to come across as cultured and avoid redundancy, it would be best to learn the meaning of the names of traditional food/drink items, so they're not misused.
Nevertheless, I'll share a recipe for masala chai that can be easily altered to your preference.
Note, the main ingredients of chai tea are tea and milk.
- 1 - 2 black tea bags or 2 tablespoon (28.6 grams) of loose-leaf black tea leaves. The brand and type of tea used are up to you.
- 5 - 8 black peppercorns / black pepper
- 1 - 3 star anise
- 5 - 7 cardamom pods
- 3 - 4 cloves
- One whole or ½ a cinnamon stick
- 2 - 3 slices of fresh ginger (you don't have to peel the skin)
- One cup of water (236.59 ml)
- 1 cup (236.59 ml) of milk. Whole milk is commonly used for masala chai, but you can use 1 cup milk of any type that you wish, including almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, or coconut milk.
- Sweetener to taste. (Maple syrup is traditionally used, but honey, sugar, or brown sugar is also okay.)
- Lightly crush your cloves, star anise, black peppercorns, and cardamom using a mortar and pestle.
If you don't own a mortar and pestle, you can place the whole spices in a Ziploc bag and go to town on it using a rolling pin. Be careful not to crush your spices to a powder, as you want to break them up slightly to release the flavor.
- Add crushed spices to a pot or small saucepan with 1 cup (236.59 ml) of water. Then add the ginger, black tea, and cinnamon stick.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce it to a simmer. The tea may get bitter if you leave it to boil. Allow the mixture to steep in the hot water for about 15 minutes.
The longer you let the tea steep, the more flavorful it'll be.
- Add the milk, and let the tea simmer for a few minutes longer in the water and hot milk. Turn the heat off.
- Add the sweetener, stir, strain into a cup, taste, and enjoy. You can always add more sweetener if your tea is bitter.
Masala chai is an acquired taste, for the most part, so you can alter this easy recipe to your liking by adding more or less of whichever ingredient.
Chai tea bags are also available in grocery stores if you prefer not to make the tea from scratch. For this recipe to become a chai latte, you would prepare the milk separately using a milk frother or steamer and add it to the cup the tea is in after it's made instead of adding it to the pot.
This will give it the delicious creaminess of milk!
You could also make Masala Chai latte with green tea if you wish. What makes a good Chai is the spice blend, and not the tea, per se. Plus, green tea has several health benefits, including appetite control.
Health Benefits of Masala Chai
Masala chai is a spiced blend that offers various health benefits. It is a popular Indian hot beverage widely recognized for its anti-inflammatory properties, distinct taste, and aroma.
Apart from its strong flavor, masala chai is also great for your body and an even better choice of beverage to prevent illness and help fight infections.
Masala Chai Can Reduce Inflammation
The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and black tea helps soothe chronic pain and muscle soreness.
Whether you're dealing with a sports-related injury or a chronic inflammatory condition like arthritis, a cup of masala chai can aid in calming any flare-ups and soothe aches and pains.
What a great benefit from this delicious blend of spices.
Drinking Masala Chai After a Meal Can Improve Digestion
If you struggle with a gastrointestinal condition like indigestion, consuming masala chai with or after a meal may improve digestion.
Ginger and cardamom are packed with properties aiding in digestion and also help ease nausea and vomiting. Masala chai promotes the removal of excess gas from your tummy, ultimately making digestion easier.
The Spices in Masala Chai Can Fight Off Infections
Black tea and ginger contain antiviral and antibacterial properties that aid in fighting infections that cause the common cold or flu. As a vitamin C boost, masala chai acts as an immune system booster by protecting your health with its antibacterial and antiviral properties.
This spiced blend can also soothe a sore throat and clear nasal congestion.
RELATED: How to Make Tea in a Coffee Maker
A Cup of Masala Chai Can Boost Your Energy
To all the coffee lovers out there, a cup of coffee / coffee drinks or an energy drink aren't the only caffeine source around.
Although masala chai does not contain as much caffeine as your regular Starbucks order, it's still an effective way to boost your energy and alertness without the afternoon crash we all experience and wish we didn’t.
Plus, it's a very tasty alternative for coffee drinkers. It can be served as a hot drink or enjoyed as an iced chai latte.
Black masala tea is a great pick-me-up and doesn't come with the jitters and anxiety that many people experience after drinking coffee, making it an excellent caffeine source and a great alternative to coffee if you're looking to reduce your intake.
When made correctly, Masala Chai is a tasty beverage and contains far more benefits than one may believe.
Now that you know the difference between a chai latte and coffee, how to say the beverage's name correctly, and the health benefits, consider giving masala tea a go if you haven't already.
It's time to decide if you should go to the grocery store to grab the ingredients to make your own or just make a quick stop to your local coffee house! The good thing is you will love it either way you choose.