7 Ways to Make Chai + Their Pros and Cons

How to make chai

There's no doubt is one of the top cool season drinks. But before it became popular in the west, it was a traditional (and still is), made using traditional techniques. Today, there are many ways to make it, some resulting in a stronger and some in a weaker flavour. Some spiced drinks may taste almost like the authentic drink, while others may feel like regular with a hint of spice.

In western countries, there's no wrong or right way to make or drink chai, as the word itself became a synonym for . And, there are many ways to make it.

What is Chai?

Chai is an Indian tea made with black tea, sugar, water, and . Rather than steeping the tea in water and just adding a splash of milk, tea leaves are simmered in a pan together with milk. It's highly aromatic, creamy and complex. It can't be compared with a regular black tea with milk, although that's exactly what it is – a sweetened black tea with milk.

Read more: Making Chai You Will Love – 2 methods compared

Proper traditional chai can be made (and often is) with black tea bags. Although it has an amazing flavour, it usually contains lower quality tea leaves. But low-quality tea leaves doesn't mean bad or stale tea. Teas with broken leaves and tea dust will give a stronger flavour and are more suitable for making a than high quality gentle tea leaves.

What is Masala Chai?

Masala chai is a black tea with milk and spices. The most common ones are cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, fennel seeds, star anise, aniseed, black pepper, nutmeg and cloves. Each masala chai tea will be different, with a unique blend of spices and of a different intensity. The best tea is usually made with freshly crushed ingredients, to release flavour more easily.

Today, the word chai can mean:

  • Black tea with milk made using traditional methods – authentic chai
  • Black tea with milk and spices used traditional methods – authentic masala chai
  • A drink made with an instant chai powder
  • A drink made with chai concentrate where you only need to add milk
  • Spiced black tea with steamed and frothed milk – western chai
  • Tea made by steeping spiced black tea blend in water only
  • Tea made by steeping spiced black tea blend in water and adding a splash of milk
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And, it can mean much more. If you order a chai in any western country, you may need to be more specific about your preferences. But if you get chai from chaiwallah in India (a person who makes and sells it), there won't be any misunderstandings – you will know exactly what to expect – a creamy, aromatic and delightful tea.

 Learn how to make masala chai from a scratch in only 10 minutes.

make Chai tea – 7 ways and their pros and cons

 


1. Make it by boiling black tea and fresh spices

If you are looking for an authentic experience, there's only one way to make masala chai. Boiling black tea leaves and fresh spices in water and milk is the traditional way of making masala tea. Fresh spices are crushed, added to water, brought to a boil and then tea leaves are added and simmered together with spices. Milk comed next, and the tea is further simmered and finally aerated. Sweetener is rather mandatory than optional and it's used to balance the flavour and improve the texture.

Chai made with black tea and fresh spices
© All That Tea

Ingredients:

  • Black tea leaves or tea bags
  • Fresh whole spices
  • Milk
  • Water
  • Sugar

Pros of this method: the authentic way to make it, complex flavour, intense aroma and a very creamy texture

Cons of this method: requires time and patience and fresh spices


2. Make chai from a concentrate

Making it from a concentrate is the second-best method of making chai at home, providing you have a good tea concentrate. Tea concentrates usually already contain sugar, and you will only need to add milk. They are often used for making lattes, too. You can make your own concentrate or buy a pre-made one.

Ingredients:

  • Pre-made chai concentrate
  • Sugar if the concentrate is sugar free
  • Milk

Pros of this method: saves a lot of time and it's easy to use

Cons of this method: flavour and ingredients will differ from a brand to a brand


3. Pre-made chai blends

If you don't know how to make chai and you never tried it before, it's likely that your first encounter with this tea will be with pre-made masala blends, either loose tea or tea bags. There are hundreds of teas to choose from, containing different teas and different spices. Pre-made chai tea bags or loose tea is usually intended for steeping in hot water for 3-5 minutes, but you can simmer them in a saucepan too. You can drink them pure or add milk.

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Ingredients:

  • Pre-made chai blend, loose tea or tea bags
  • Water
  • Milk (optional)
  • Sugar (optional)

Pros of this method: you don't need to worry about different spice ratios or choosing the best tea base, they are easy to steep, suitable for office

Cons of this method: flavour may be weaker, especially if you only steep it in water, quality and flavour may differ.


4. Mixing instant powders with milk or water

Instant powders and latte powders are easy to use, and you can be mix them with both water or milk. They usually contain sugars and powdered milk and may be very sweet. One of the major benefit is the ease of use. There are many delicious instant  tea powders out there, but the texture and flavour will differ from the authentic chai. Many powders contain non-traditional ingredients such as vanilla or chocolate.

Ingredients:

  • Instant chai powder
  • Water OR milk, or both
  • Sugar (optional, usually already highly sweetened)

Pros of this method: Very easy to use, often a decadent drink with no bitterness

Cons of this method: Other ingredients and potentially lots of sugar, the furthest from an authentic chai of all methods


5. Using steamed milk

Chai with steamed milk is called chai latte. It's an alternative to regular milk tea, but with a very different texture and flavour. It's great for making a cup of spiced tea fast, especially if you have a milk steamer and a loose tea blend or tea bags. Latte will have a better texture than regular cup of tea with milk, but it will still be less rich than the proper authentic chai – even if you start with the same ingredient ratio. Furthermore, it will have a layer of milky foam that's not spiced.

Chai latte
© All That Tea

Ingredients:

  • Pre-made blends or chai concentrate
  • Water
  • Steamed and frothed milk
  • Sugar

Pros of this method: easier to make than the authentic tea, usually made with pre-made blends

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Cons of this method: texture will be less creamy and more watery than an authentic tea, requires a milk steamer or an electric hand frother

Read more: Chai tea vs Chai latte


6. Adding powdered spices to black tea

Another way of making chai tea is by adding powdered spices to steeped tea. While this may be convenient, if you don't have any whole spices and want to make a cup of spiced tea fast, it will have downsides, too. Powders don't really dissolve and have a less intense flavour than whole spices. This method works well when making lattes, but it may not be a great choice for making a regular cup of tea without milk or with only a splash of cold milk.

Ingredients:

  • Black tea leaves or tea bag
  • Powdered spices
  • Steamed milk
  • Sugar (optional)

Pros of this method: easier to use than whole spices, suitable for making lattes

Cons of this method: not suitable for making authentic chai or for adding to tea without milk


7. Using chai pods

The fastest and newest way of making a milky tea is by using tea pods. Just like coffee pods, tea pods will offer an ease of use and will usually already contain sugar and milk. While you can't use chai pods to make an authentic chai, you can use them to make a delicious cup of spiced drink. Pods are easy to use, provided you have a pod coffee machine, but the price per cup may be higer than using fresh ingredients. However, it's probably the most conventient way of enjoying spiced tea in the office.

Ingredients:

  • Chai pods
  • Water

Pros of this method: easy to use, great for offices

Cons of this method: cost, some may be more watery than the others


Final thoughts

The best way will ultimately depend on your preferences. If you want an authentic experience, there's only one way to make it – by gathering all ingredients and simmering it to a perfection. But if only want to enjoy a spiced drink, there are many ways you can try. Experimenting with different methods will help you find the perfect one.

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