In America, most people who order a chai tea latte just want that deliciously fragrant and spicy drink made from tea and milk.
But what is chai tea anyway? Aside from a sweet, deliciously fragrant way to warm up a cold afternoon that is.
Scroll to the end of this post for an easy to make at home recipe!
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What’s In A Chai Tea Latte?
The fragrant drink we’ve come to know and love in the U.S. is made from black tea, milk, spices and sweetened with sugar.
The drink originated in India hundreds of years ago but just started to gain traction in the U.S. in the 1990s.
The western version of chai usually has a lighter and sweeter taste than the Indian version.
What does Chai Mean?
Chai is actually the Hindi word for tea, which is derived from cha, the Chinese word for tea. So if you say “chai tea”, you’re saying “tea-tea”.
So next time you’re in line at Starbucks and the man in front of orders a chai tea latte, you’ll know that he actually just ordered a tea-tea latte and you can softly snicker to yourself at your newfound knowledge.
The word chai is pronounced in one syllable and rhymes with the word “sky”.
(Not like the three-syllable “acai”, which I still can’t remember how to pronounce correctly…)
What Makes Chai Tea Spicy?
Since chai just means tea, what makes chai tea so spicy and fragrant?
What we usually refer to as chai in the U.S. is actually masala chai.
Masala is what gives chai tea its spiciness.
What is Masala?
Masala is a generic term meaning spice. It can also refer to a mixture of spices blended into a powder or a paste and used in Indian cooking.
Masalas can vary from hot like garam masala (a mixture of pepper, cumin, cloves, bay leaves…) to fragrant and spicy like the mixture used to make chai.
The spices in chai masala are usually green cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, ground cloves, ground ginger, and black peppercorn
The spices you’ll find in chai vary widely depending on where you live.
Indian Chai Spices
The traditional Indian masala chai mixture starts with a base of green cardamom pods and ground ginger, with the addition of any number of these spices:
- star anise
- fennel seeds
- cardamom seeds
- ginger root
- black peppercorn
In India, the spice mix can vary from region to region, and even family to family, but usually includes green cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, ground cloves, ground ginger, and black peppercorn.
U.S Chai Spices
Just like in India, the spices in chai tea vary, but most include:
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Chai Tea Latte Benefits
Because this fragrant drink is a mixture of many different elements that have been proven to have health benefits, chai tea is also good for you.
Heart Health Benefits
The cinnamon in your chai tea latte benefits your heart by reducing levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
The ginger and cinnamon combo in a chai tea benefits your blood sugar levels, but only if you stay away from the super sweet versions because added sugar can quickly wipe out any blood sugar lowering benefits.
Helps with Nausea
The ginger in chai tea benefits those who suffer from nausea and is especially effective for pregnant women.
I love it when something that tastes great also does great things for my health!
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Chai Tea Latte Caffeine
Most chai contains caffeine because it’s made from black tea. But chai tea latte caffeine is only about one-third that of coffee (if made with a black tea base).
A typical 8-ounce cup of chai has about 26 mg of caffeine, compared to about 90 mg in the same amount of black coffee.
Chai Tea Latte Calories
The calories in a chai tea latte depend on which type of milk you use and how sweet you like your drink.
For instance, a grande Starbucks chai tea latte made from whole milk has 270 calories (gasp!).
One of the reasons I like to make mine at home is because you can vary the sweetness as well as which type of milk you use which directly affects the chai tea latte calories.
My recipe only has 79 calories and tastes just as delicious!
Chai Tea Latte Starbucks
Most people in the U.S. have their first chai latte experience in a coffee house like Starbucks.
This is how Starbucks makes their version:
Black tea infused with cinnamon, clove, and other warming spices is combined with steamed milk and topped with foam for the perfect balance of sweet and spicy.Starbucks Website
While the chai tea latte Starbucks makes is fine, I like to make my own because then I can control the sweetness, type of milk I use, and the overall calorie count of the drink.
Easy Chai Tea Latte Recipe
This easy recipe uses chai tea bags which have all the spices already mixed so it’s a super-easy way to get that delicious Starbucks chai tea latte taste in just a few minutes.
Tazo tea has an amazing selection of products that can help you make a great chai latte depending on how much work you want to put in:
- Tazo Chai Tea Bags (I use these)
- Tazo Chai Tea Latte Concentrate
- Tazo Chai K-Cups for your Keurig Machine
- Tazo Chai Pumpkin Spice Tea Bags
This recipe is as simple as making your tea, frothing your milk of choice and adding a sprinkle of extra cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Chai Tea Bag
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup milk of your choice
- Sweetener of your choice (I like brown sugar)
- Dash of cinnamon and nutmeg
- Add tea bag to a large mug, pour over boiling water and allow to steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bag.
- Warm milk on the stove or in the microwave until hot. Using a handheld frother or immersion blender, froth milk until light and frothy.
- Pour frothed milk over brewed tea, sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 1 Serving Size: 12 Ounces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 79
Nutrition information assumes the use of 2% milk and 1 teaspoon brown sugar.