Despite being considered a relatively exotic drink, chai has been gaining a lot of popularity in the U.S.. But what is it, really, and more importantly, is it as good for you as they say?
What chai is about
The word ‘chai’ brings about some misconceptions, especially when used as a prefix for ‘tea’. In reality, there isn’t really any difference between chai and tea – they’re two words referring to the same drink.
With that said, many have come to associate chai with a specific type of tea called the Masala chai. This is a traditional Indian and Pakistani beverage that is slowly taking over the U.S., and with good reason – it tastes great and different from most drinks you’ll find in the Western hemisphere.
Therefore, when someone is talking about chai, they’re probably referring to the Masala blend and its distinct flavor, although this isn’t a guarantee – as noted, chai can refer to any old type of tea since it’s simply an alternate word for the hot beverage.
And what about chai’s benefits? Well, you might be disappointed to hear that chai isn’t exactly the superfood that some would have you believe – while it’s not going to have the negative effects of a soda, it’s not about to cleanse your body of toxins, either. Simply put, Masala chai – and every other type of chai – is a neutral drink that’s great when the weather’s sour.
One thing to note about chai’s effects is that many of its blends – including the commonly-used Masala one – use milk. While the drink tastes great, it could end up causing a negative reaction in those who are lactose intolerant, so be sure to ask for a list of ingredients before sipping.
Speaking of ingredients, you might be wondering how to make this popular drink – driving miles just to taste a cup of chai probably isn’t on your to-do list. Fortunately, chai is pretty easy to make regardless of your brewing aptitude.
Chai’s ingredients and preparation
Like any tea, chai is made by using a specific tea bag dipped in warm water – if you’re looking to get fancy, you can call the chai bag a bouquet garni. Those wanting to make the bags instead of buying them know that the ingredients vary but generally include tea leaves, some variety of cardamom seeds and a little bit of cinnamon.
When boiling the water, make sure not to go overboard with the heat – if you’ve ever had camomile tea, you know that leaving the bag inside for too long can make the drink taste yucky. This is because too many of the ingredients are released, so practice a bit before getting it right.
After the tea’s base is made, you should add some milk, a bit of honey and maybe even some vanilla (if you used vanilla cardamom seeds, be sure not to go overboard with the flavor). Add a little sugar to the mix if needed and you have your chai tea – while it won’t be as tasty as the beverages sold in fancy establishment, remember that practice makes perfect and keep boiling. If you’d like additional help, watch the video above as it details one of several methods of making this exquisite drink at home.