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Easy Chai Varieties To Make At Home

Feb 10th, 2023

We all love a good chai latte in the morning. Or in the afternoon. Or at night. 

Pretty much whenever, honestly. 

Chai lattes that we’re used to are warm, cozy, usually pretty sweet and have a nice, earthy blend of spices that make the beverage ideal for those cold rainy days. They’re popular in the fall and winter seasons — they pair well with pumpkin-spice-flavored anything — and they’re only getting more and more popular on coffee shop menus.

For all its modern popularity, chai is actually one of the oldest tea-based drinks still around today, and it has a history extending as far back as 3,000 B.C. in the Indian subcontinent.

In fact, the word “chai” is the Hindi word for “tea”, so technically saying “chai tea” is a bit like saying “tea tea” — and just like saying “coffee coffee” or “milk milk” doesn’t make sense, “chai tea” is just redundant. 

Anyway, traditional chai is made by steeping a blend of spices in water. That’s it! People added combinations of their favorite cooking spices to create their own house blends of chai, and the unique blends not only made for a delicious drink, but they also added antioxidants, vitamins and other health benefits that were used both medicinally and recreationally. 

In the early 20th century, the British Empire in colonial India began cultivating Assam, which is a type of black tea grown in the Assam region of India in the southern foothills of the Himalayas. The popularity of the tea in India meant that, inevitably, the tea leaves would be added to the chai, and the British influenced the drink further by introducing milk and sugar into the tea. 

The chai we all know and love here in the Western part of the world today is based on that spice-tea-milk-sugar beverage, and that very flavor profile has inspired many other recipes from cakes to pastries to cocktails and more. And honestly, the great thing about chai is that there’s no single combination of spices that makes up the purest chai, giving us the ability to experiment with flavors, spices and blends to make our spicy tea drink just how we like it. 

Here are a varie-TEA of ways you can enjoy the beautiful aromatics of chai — and not just in a latte!

Different ways to enjoy a chai drink

Black chai

Black chai just means chai without milk, which could mean a cup of pre-made chai tea (like this one from Stash) or it could be your very own blend of chai made right in your kitchen!

All you need to make your own tea blend is some loose leaf black tea — Assam or Darjeeling is best — and some whole spices. You can play around with the ratios and amounts if you’d like, but here’s a good lineup to start with.

Ingredients in a black chai tea blend:

  • Green cardamom pods
  • Star anise
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Whole cloves
  • Dried ginger (ground ginger also works well)
  • Black peppercorns
  • Whole allspice
  • Loose leaf black tea
  • Sugar or honey

If you’re looking for an actual recipe, try this DIY chai tea blend for size and see how you like it!

Pro tip: If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even add a bit of ground cayenne into the blend (seriously, just a tiny bit). This will give the tea a unique warmth that you’ll feel all the way down your chest as you sip on the warm tea. 

Milky chai

Do as the Brits did back in colonial India and add a splash of milk to your black chai blend (see above) for a more tame version of the drink. Some additional ingredients like vanilla and cacao nibs will mesh better with the drink when there’s a bit of creaminess to hang on to, plus it takes away a bit of the astringency of the black tea. 

Chai hot chocolate

Name one better combination than cozy chai spices and rich dark hot chocolate. Go on. We’ll wait (which will be forever, because there isn’t anything better).

And yes, we did just talk about the fact that chai means “tea” so by our own logic, we’re calling this a “tea hot chocolate”. Yes, yes, but hear us out. 

Chai hot chocolate exists because we’ve (as in, the Western world) have kind of changed the meaning of chai to fit the spices’ flavor profile, rather than have it represent a tea. To most of us, a chai brings up thoughts of warm, cozy, earthy and sweet drinks, rather than the strong spicy tea traditionally associated with the name. 

Because we’ve invented a loophole, we can have the spices that make up a traditional chai supported by a totally different drink — like a chai latte and like a chai hot chocolate. Does it go against grammatical and logical standards? Yes. Is it worth doing over and over again? Absolutely.

Do you want this recipe for a chai hot chocolate? Yes, you do. Click the link. You can thank us later. 

Dirty chai latte

If you’re looking for a feeling somewhere between warm-and-cozy and ready-to-fight, then a dirty chai may be your next drink of choice. 

Essentially, a dirty chai is a chai latte with a shot of espresso in it. And yes, it does mean you’re mixing tea with coffee, but since a chai latte is pretty much just a sugar-spice concentrate mixed with milk, the coffee blends in perfectly. You can even be so bold as to ask for a double dirty chai with two shots! 

Chai cocktail

Put a chai twist on an espresso martini, or maybe give this dirty chai white Russian a go. Elevate a simple old fashioned with chai-infused syrup and bourbon, or go all out with a masala flip that’s sure to impress. 

Whatever your spirit of choice, there’s sure to be a tea-based cocktail version ready to add to your retinue!

Now that you’re practically an expert on all things chai, try making your own blend and experimenting with flavors, ratios and techniques to find the chai tea blend that’s just right for you. You can’t go wrong!


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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/asundermeier

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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