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What Is Chai Latte?

We explore Chai tea, a spiced, sweet and unique blend originating in India; as well as how to prepare a chai latte from scratch.

This spicy, vibrant tea blend usually contains some mix of black tea with cardamom, cloves, ginger and cinnamon and it’s not uncommon for vanilla and star anise to be added. With its origins in India, there’s no set Chai recipe, so you can adapt it as you please.

What Is Chai Latte?
What Is Chai Tea?

What Is Chai Tea?

Chai (also known as masala tea) is a blend of black tea and spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves and black peppercorns, which is typically served strong with milk.

You can steep the Chai in water and then add milk, or you can simmer the Chai itself in a mixture of milk and water or just milk to make a Chai latte.

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Where Does Chai Come From?

Chai originated in the Indian subcontinent. Wild tea plants grew in the Assam region of India, as noticed by British colonists in the 1830s, who began to cultivate the plant. However, consumption of Indian tea in Britain didn’t take off until the late 19th Century, with over 90% of tea still being of Chinese origin in the 1870s. The end of the century saw Indian-grown tea gain immensely in popularity, and by 1900 Chinese tea consumption had dropped to just 10%.

Where Does Chai Come From

However, tea, which was historically used in medicine in India rather than as a beverage, still wasn’t a popular drink in India until the early 20th Century. The Indian Tea Association encouraged employers to give their staff tea breaks and supported independent tea vendors. These vendors, which were commonly found on rail routes around the country, took to substituting some of the tea leaves in their tea with spices and a high volume of milk and sugar, to reduce their costs.

Despite the Indian Tea Association’s disapproval, ‘Masala Chai’ became firmly established as the delicious beverage we know today, available the world over.

Where Does Chai Tea Come From

Twinings Chai Tea

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Does Chai Latte Have Caffeine?

Because chai latte contains tea leaves as well as its delicious mix of spices, it does contain caffeine. The exact amount depends on the proportion of tea leaves to spices used in the recipe, and how long the tea is brewed for.

Does Chai Latte Have Caffeine

How to Make Chai Latte

To prepare chai latte (or chai tea) with a tea bag:

  • Using a tall glass mug, pour hot water over the tea bag (fill to about a third of the way up)
  • Leave to brew for 3-4 minutes
  • While your tea is brewing, froth enough milk to fill the mug
  • After 3-4 minutes, remove the tea bag and top the mug up with frothed milk
  • Finish with a dusting of cinnamon
How to Make Chai Latte
To Prepare a Chai Latte From Scratch

To Prepare a Chai Latte From Scratch

  • Lightly toast cinnamon sticks, ginger, star anise, cardamom pods, cloves and peppercorns in a pan for around 3 minutes. The amounts of each are completely down to your taste, and this is a great opportunity to experiment, but as a starting point we suggest (serves 4)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 x 1-2 inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced
1 star anise
8 cardamom pods
5 cloves
8 peppercorns
  • Place the spices in a teapot of hot water (about 1 pint) with 3 black tea bags of your choice (Assam is one of our favourites!) and the ginger.
  • Steep for 5-10 minutes, to taste
  • While the tea is brewing, heat 1 pint of milk with your choice of sweetener (e.g. brown sugar), then froth with a milk frother or immersion blender.
  • To serve, strain tea into glasses and top up with frothed milk. Use around 1/3 tea to 2/3 milk.
  • Finish with a dusting of cinnamon
Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte

Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte

Twinings Spicy Chai and Pumpkin Spice syrup mixed with steamed milk. We think this is the ultimate definition of an autumn flavours inspired treat.
What Is Bubble Tea?

What Is Bubble Tea?

Bubble tea is a Taiwanese recipe made by blending tea with milk, fruit and fruit juices, then adding tasty tapioca pearls and shaking vigorously.
Tea Culture Around the World

Tea Culture Around The World

Millions of people around the world drink tea for many reasons. We explore different teas globally, as well as their associated customs and rituals.