When popping by into a coffee shop it’s obviously more likely that you get a coffee-based drink. In fact, emerging new trend, alternative milk and non-caffeine based drinks are widening the offer that coffee shops have been delivering for some years.
Today, we are digging deeper into the Chai latte, nowadays a popular drink found in any coffee chains but also speciality coffee shops.
Just before getting into details, let’s talk about the origin of the chai and chai latte.
The history of the chai and chai latte
Chai latte is made by mixing tea in hot water and then mixing it with sugar and milk. We refer to masala chai when black tea is steeped together with sugar, milk and spices (which can vary).
There is much confusion about the origin of chai and chai latte mostly for two reasons:
- There are myriad of legends that have been taken as truth;
- People think that chai and chai latte is the same thing and for this reason, it is believed that they come from the same country: in fact, chai stand for tea from the Mandarin Chinese whereas chai latte is an Indian “revisited” version.
Generally speaking, making tea by taking the leaves of the tea plant was first discovered in China.
On the other hand, chai latte has been originated in India. The same tea plant was brought to India from China by the British. It was there that masala chai was invented by adding milk and sugar to the chai (hence the name chai latte).
So, what exactly is chai latte?
It is a combination of black tea and milk. Here’s in London is commonly used a powder made by leaves that comes from Assam or Darjeeling region. Brown sugar then is added and hot steamed milk is poured to top the glass.
Here’s in London, when I was serving this drink at the coffee shop, I normally add equal parts of chai and unrefined sugars into a milk pitcher along with the right amount of milk and then steamed it all together. I then wait 30 seconds and slowly poured directly into the cup with the help of a strainer.
Here’s the Chai Latte recipe.
- 3g of chai powder;
- 3g of unrefined sugar;
- whole milk from the Estate Diary or oat milk from Oatly (these are the most used milk for making it in London).
As I said before, we just wait a bit to make the powder settle down. I realised with the team that by pouring slowly into the cup we were creating much more density at the drink and so making a creamier one.
Chai latte has become quite popular right now. Not the same happened with the dirty chai latte, at least so far.
Sometimes, some customers ask for a dirty chai latte, which is simply a chai latte with a double espresso shot. I’m actually not a big fan of this version as adding espresso doesn’t make any sense to me.
I would rather stick to a chai with oat milk as I think oat milk combined really well with the chai powder’s spicy flavours.
Lots of people ask if chai latte is good or bad for you.
I honestly suggest not order it through the big chains as their version is far from the original. People concern about all the sugars contained in their drink and they’re right.
For instance, a Starbucks chai latte is made up of more than 200 calories (depending on the size ordered). This happens because of the amount of sugar big chains add in the forms of syrups such as vanilla, caramel or nutmeg.
The drink shouldn’t be served like this and yes, it’s obviously unhealthy. Chai has a great history behind and it’s known for being healthy: the spices and herbs are full of anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidants and also help you to digest.
So, yes, you should stick to an independent or speciality coffee shop if you want to experience a proper chai latte or you can even opt to make yourself at home.
Making a chai latte at home is easier than you might think and it’s funny too. I’ll share an easy one right now.
Homemade chai latte recipe
Before making a chai latte make sure you have these ingredients:
- Ground chai;
- Fresh ginger;
- Cinnamon pods;
- Cardamom pods;
- 3-4 black tea bags;
- A mortar;
- A saucepan
I’m just ok with some of these ingredients as my standard recipe includes ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. These ingredients above are just some of the most used but it’s just down to you which one to choose.
Here are the steps for making a homemade chai latte:
- Grind the spices you have chosen with a mortar. I prefer fresh spices than using ground ones;
- Take a saucepan: add some water and the ground spices in it. Bring it to a boil;
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the tea bags (water has to be at 90° degrees Celsius);
- Steep at least for 4 minutes: the more you steep the stronger the flavours;
- In the meantime you’re steeping your ingredients, you can take another saucepan. Add some milk (I usually go for oat milk) in it and bring it to 65° degrees Celsius. Whip the milk with a frother or if you don’t, a french press will be fine;
- Pour the tea into a mug and top it with your foamy milk. Enjoy!
Great. You have done your chai latte. The good thing is that you can swap ingredients, try different masala chai (you can find several different chai powders both online or at the tea/coffee shops) and milk to find what works better for you.
If you have never had a chai latte before, then you should consider having a taste.
It could be a great alternative for you if you want to cut down your caffeine intake, if you can’t actually drink caffeine-based drink or if you just want to try something new.
I am an Italian coffee lover that pushed for the love of this “amazing drug” decided to come to London to study about coffee and its different extraction procedures and tastes.