If you’re looking for a tea to warm you up on a cold winter’s day, or as a comforting evening drink, look no further than chai tea. In many languages including the languages of the Indian subcontinent where chai originates, ‘chai’ simply means ‘tea’. However, in the West it has since come to refer to a spiced tea which, in India, is known as Masala Chai. It can be made with any kind of tea: black, white, oolong, rooibos, or any other you can think of. You can even make it at home: just take your favorite tea and add some spices!
What is Chai Tea?
In India, dried tea leaves are mixed with spices and allowed to steep in hot milk to create a hearty drink: masala chai. The classic masala chai uses black tea as a base, to which cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and black peppercorns are typically added, but over the years a wide variety of recipes have emerged, using a multitude of base teas with which spices, fruits, and even flower petals can be combined.
While chai emerged in the heat of Indian summers, the drink is particularly popular in cooler climes, as the warmth of the spicing evokes the flavors of a good mulled wine. In the West, the blend is typically steeped in water rather than milk, although milk can be added to the tea for a creamier taste.
Are There Health Benefits to Chai Tea?
Absolutely. Generally speaking, chai tea has long been used in India to benefit from the natural properties of the ingredients and keep illness away. Chai tea combines the benefits of drinking tea with those bestowed by the various spices used. As such, the health benefits differ slightly from blend to blend, depending on which teas and spices are used.
Teas made from the Camellia sinensis plant, which includes black, white, yellow, green, and oolong teas, are well known for being a fantastic source of antioxidants, which are believed to protect against cancers and heart disease, assist with brain function, and help with weight loss, among other benefits. Tea drinking has also been linked with a lowered risk of diabetes, lowered risk of Alzheimer’s, and could even help you sleep better at night.
Add spices to this healthy elixir and you have the perfect combination. Cinnamon, a common ingredient in chai tea, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Another popular ingredient, cardamom, boasts the same benefits, and is also antibacterial, helping to prevent illness.
Meanwhile, two other popular chai ingredients, ginger, which gives chai tea its fiery flavors, and black peppercorns which add further heat, are known to aid in digestion, helping to regulate gut health. Bring all these benefits together and you have a warming, comforting drink that can actively promote good health.
Best Everyday Chai Tea
In Britain, Twinings is synonymous with tea as the company dates back to the early 1700s when tea was first popularized in Thomas Twining’s London coffee house. Who better then to turn to than Twinings for a chai tea blend that you can enjoy every day?
For their chai tea, Twinings have gone for the classic pairing of earthy Assam black tea with ginger, cinnamon and spices to create a traditional Indian chai.
Simply infuse the tea bags in a cup of hot water to release the mulled aroma which is so evocative on a cold winter’s night.
- Available in a box of 50 bags
- Dark Assam provides earthy base notes warmed by the spiced flavoring.
- Steep a tea bag in hot water for three to five minutes – the longer the stronger!
Best Chai Tea for Health Benefits
Combining the anti-oxidising properties of black tea with a variety of spices, all chai teas impart health benefits, but Buddha Tea’s Chai Tea stands out in this category.
Buddha Teas have carefully blended six organic spices — cardamom seed, cinnamon, star anise, ginger, cloves and black pepper — with an organic black tea to create a delicately flavored chai tea with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, digestion-improving properties.
And with no added sweeteners or preservatives, you can enjoy this tea guilt-free. Add a splash of milk, or simply enjoy the finely balanced flavors on their own.
- Available as a box of 18 tea bags.
- Mellow, gently warming flavor profile.
- Ideal as a soothing evening drink to help boost immunity and promote gut health.
Best White Chai Tea
At its heart, chai tea is basically a tea blended with spices. While black tea typically provides the base note, its smoky, heavy flavors complementing the spicing well, some blenders have opted for a lighter white tea as the base flavor.
A stand-out example is Art of Tea’s White Winter Chai. The organic white tea used as the base sings under the zingier notes of peppercorns, cinnamon, fennel, cloves, cardamom, and star anise, creating a light yet delightful flavor profile.
Best of all, the warm spicing makes for a comforting winter drink at any time of day, perfect for cozy days in front of the fire. Add a dash of cream for a really sumptuous treat.
- Available in a 1 oz tin (25 cups), 4oz pouch (60 cups), or 1lb pouch (240 cups)
- Light yet smoothly warming flavor notes, perfect for staying cozy during winter.
- Steep the leaves for 1-3 minutes in water warmed to 80-85ºC.
Best Chai Tea for Pure Indulgence
While the gentle warmth of chai tea often evokes exotic images of India, the Tea Makers of London have taken this experience to a whole new level with their Chai of Madagascar.
Combining South African green honeybush leaves with dried orange slices, cocoa nibs, cinnamon, ginger pieces, vervain, cardamom, clove, rose pepper, rose blossom leaves and vanilla chunks, the result is truly a taste sensation that revels in the exotic luxury of the tea’s namesake.
Steep in hot water to release wonderful floral aromas, and sip gently on a cold day or night to be immediately transported to warmer climes.
- Available in 50g or 125g tin caddies, or 250g or 1lb packs.
- Sumptuous, warm and floral with citrus notes, perfect as a winter pick me up.
- Steep the tea blend in hot water for 4-5 minutes to release the full flavor.
Best Caffeine Free Chai Tea
While black, green, white, yellow, oolong and pu-ehr teas are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which naturally contains caffeine, rooibos tea is made from the naturally caffeine-free Aspalathus linearis bush, native to South Africa. That makes rooibos tea — the basis for Dragonfly’s Cape Malay Chai — naturally caffeine free, with a slightly sweet yet earthy flavor profile that holds spices well.
Dragonfly have blended their rooibos with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, chicory, cloves, black pepper and cassia oil to create a sweet, floral tea with spicy undertones.
As a caffeine free tea, it’s perfect as a soothing drink just before bedtime. Enjoy on its own for a flavorful cup, or add milk and honey for an indulgent treat.
- Available as a box of 20 sachets
- Sweet and aromatic, with floral notes and a warmly spiced flavor profile
- Infuse the sachet for 2-4 minutes in freshly boiled water for the perfect brew.
The Best Chai Latte
Ever get that craving for a rich and creamy chai latte while at home, but don’t want to head out to get one from your favorite coffee shop? Now you don’t have to, thanks to Tea Drops’ Chai Spice Boba Latte Kit.
Drawing on the classic Massala Chai taste, Tea Drops have created their Chai Spice drops by fusing rich Assam tea leaves with warming cardamom, cinnamon and ginger to create a vibrant, fiery chai tea which is sure to delight.
In this pack, they’ve paired the drops with rich, creamy sweetened condensed milk and boba pearls, so you can treat yourself any time, day or night. Enjoy warm as a spiced tea, or cold as an iced latte.
- Included are five chai spice tea drops, five single-serve pouches of sweetened condensed milk, and 2oz boba pearls.
- Sweet yet warmly spicy, with cinnamon, cardamom, and fresh ginger tones.
- Melt the chai spice tea drops in hot or cold water and add the milk to create a creamy latte. Finally, sprinkle in some boba pearls for an exotic treat.