Chai has become immensely popular in the western world. Hailing from India, chai is consumed as part of spiritual ceremonies and is a staple of gatherings among friends and family. This beloved Indian beverage offers a delicious contrast of spicy and sweet flavors that delight the senses.
Chai lattes are made by blending a variety of spices, black tea, and frothed milk. The possibilities for adding your own spin to this beverage are almost endless. The resulting spiced tea piques curiosity and delivers a flavorful punch that is unparalleled. Read on to find out how to brew chai lattes like a barista.
A chai latte is an updated spin on masala chai—a beverage brewed by infusing spices in tea concentrate. Most masala chai blends are made using five staple spices including cardamom, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves. The spices are ground and added to a black tea base. Masala chai is typically consumed with a dash of creamy milk.
Chai lattes up the flavor by changing the way milk is added to the chai spices. Instead of simply pouring warm milk into the tea concentrate, chai lattes use frothed milk. That results in a creamier and richer flavor and texture that is similar to matcha green tea lattes.
When it comes to making a chai tea latte, using the right ingredients is essential. We'll go over how to brew the chai tea concentrate and show you how to froth milk for the perfect latte every time.
In India, chai simply means 'tea'. A chai latte then is simply a blend of tea and frothed milk. To make a delicious chai latte, you need to start by using high quality tea. Most chai lattes are brewed using black tea, but you can also use oolong or pu-erh tea instead if preferred.
For a classic chai tea latte, use loose-leaf black tea of the Assam or Darjeeling variety. Both of these black teas are grown exclusively in India and are famous for rich and potent flavor. Use 1 tablespoon of loose leaf tea for every eight ounces of water.
Use loose leaf teas rather than tea bags for the best flavor. Loose leaf tea is generally considered higher quality when compared to tea bags. Loose teas don't contain broken leaves or low quality tea dust like tea bags do. The higher quality tea means that you're less likely to develop bitter flavors during the brewing process.
If you absolutely must use tea bags, look for black tea sachets from tea companies like Tazo. These tend to have more space for the tea leaves the expand and infuse flavor. You can also simply use chai tea bags for the fastest brewing.
Brew the black tea by heating water to 212 F. Add the black tea leaves to the hot water and steep for 5 to 10 minutes. The longer the tea steeps, the stronger the flavor will be. You can steep in a tea kettle, French press, or a small saucepan on top of the stove.
As mentioned, chai is made using the five staple chai spice ingredients. Make sure to include green cardamom, cloves, black peppercorns, cinnamon, and fresh ginger when brewing up chai lattes. You can also add in other spices such as star anise or nutmeg to change up the flavor.
We recommend using the whole spices and grinding them by hand for the freshest flavor. You can also use ground spices such as ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and ground cloves to speed up the brewing process if preferred.
The key to making chai lattes like a Starbucks or coffee shop barista lies in the frothing process. The easiest way to froth milk is to use an espresso machine or coffee maker that features a frother or use a frothing wand.
If you don't have one of these tools, don’t worry. There are several different ways to froth milk and we'll go over them quickly here.
The first alternative to frothing milk with professional tools is to whisk it. Start by heating the milk on the stove. Whisk vigorously for 3 to 5 minutes or until the milk becomes thick and foamy. This method works best for low-fat or nonfat dairy milks and coconut milk.
This method involves shaking the milk first and then heating it afterwards. This method works best for whole fat milk and most nut milks. Add the milk to a large glass jar or a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes and then heat in a large saucepan.
Blending also works best for frothing milk before it is heated. This method works best for non dairy milks such as almond milk and rice milk. Use an immersion blender to froth the milk in a large saucepan. You can also add the milk to a standard blender. Once the milk is blended, heat on low for a few minutes before adding to the black tea concentrate.
1. If using whole spices, grind them into a fine powder. To speed up the process and shorten the total time of the recipe, you can use ground spices or a chai concentrate instead.
2. Roast the spices in a small saucepan on the stovetop for 3 minutes on low heat. You can also add other spices such as ground nutmeg or all spice for richer flavor.
3. Bring water to a rapid boil in a pan on high heat. Brew the black tea leaves using boiling water with a temperature of 212 F. Steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Strain the tea and spices using a fine mesh strainer or a tea strainer.
5. Froth the milk using one of the three methods discussed above. Choose the method that works best for you or the type of milk you have chosen. Heat the milk before frothing if using dairy milks or coconut milk. Froth the milk before heating if using nut milk in your chai recipe.
6. Serve. Fill a tea cup 3/4 of the way with the tea concentrate. Add a dollop of the steamed milk on top. Mix in sweeteners if desired. Stir and enjoy!
Making chai tea lattes sounds time intensive and they do involve a little bit of prep time, but it can be a quick process when done mindfully. You can brew black tea concentrate and store it for up to five days for a continuous supply of chai base. You can also grind chai spices in batches and store in an airtight container for freshness.
Don't be afraid to play with flavors and make this recipe your own. You can make it gluten free or sugar free by making minor changes to the staple ingredients. Add a scoop of ice cream for a dessert treat, serve with a sliced apple for fruity flavor, or make it into a smoothie. You can also make a dirty chai latte, which blends the chai concentrate with frothed milk and a shot of espresso.
Nothing warms up cool mornings in fall quite like a chai latte. Add a new spin to the beverage with our seasonal latte recipes. These include pumpkin spice latte and lavender latte options to keep you happy from Christmas through summer. Whatever chai latte you decide to whip up, use these tips for a perfect blend every time.