It’s hardly a secret that coffee houses and espresso bars have popped up all over the world in recent years. With such an influx of coffee bars, a wide variety of drinks is the natural result. To the novice gourmet coffee drinker, the typical espresso menu is filled with unfamiliar words such as cappuccino, frappe, dopio, machiatto, and especially chai.
What is Chai Tea?
Chai (pronounced as rhyming with “pie”) is a spiced black tea usually in the form of a concentrate or powder. Chai ingredients include black tea or green tea, various spices, and just enough sweetener added to bring out the full flavor of the spices. The most common spices in chai tea are cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and pepper. Other spices, such as anise and nutmeg, are added depending on the brand name.
One of the most popular forms of Chai in the United States is concentrate. Chai concentrate is found in liquid or syrup form, making it very easy to use as a mixer when making chai drinks.
What Types of Chai Latte Tea Mix are Available?
Due to its increasing popularity, chai tea is now produced by a large number of companies. These companies produce their chai tea in several forms, such as chai tea concentrate, chai tea powder, and chai tea bags. Additionally, chai tea drinkers can find flavored chai (such as vanilla or chocolate), vegan chai, organic chai, chai made with wind power, sugar-free chai, decaffeinated chai, etc. Some of the more popular chai brands in the Northwest United States include:
- Monin Chai – concentrate
- Oregon Chai – concentrate
- DaVinci Chai – concentrate
- Torani Chai – concentrate
- Tazo Chai – bags and concentrate
- Big Train Chai – powder
What Chai Drinks are Available at the Local Coffee Shop?
The increasing popularity of chai drinks has lead to an increasing variety of specialty drinks based on chai tea. Most coffee houses now feature, among others, a chai tea latte, a blended chai tea, and an iced chai tea. And of course, to order a chai properly, specific terms must be used.
Generally, chai drinks can be ordered using the same terminology that is used when ordering espresso-based drinks, but there are some differences. For example, most chai drinks do not come with espresso – a different term must be used to receive a chai drink with espresso added. The following lists will aid the novice chai drinker in ordering a chai to suit any taste. First, the basics:
- Chai Tea Latte – chai tea mixed with steamed milk
- Blended Chai Tea – a chai drink blended with milk and ice
- Iced Chai – chai tea mixed with milk and poured over ice
- Chai Cappuccino – chai tea mixed with steamed milk and a thick layer of foam on top
- Breve Chai – a chai latte made with cream (or half-n-half) instead of milk
From the above list, variations can be used in order to create a more personalized chai experience.
- Dirty Chai – any chai tea drink with a shot of espresso added for an extra kick of caffeine (some say a dirty chai also means soy milk instead of regular milk)
- Down and Dirty Chai – any chai tea drink with two shots of espresso
- Vanilla (or caramel, or irish cream, etc.) Chai – any chai drink with flavoring added
- Skinny Chai – any chai drink made with skim, or non-fat, milk
- Soy Chai – any chai drink made with soy milk
Of course, other combinations are possible. For example, a Dirty Skinny Vanilla Chai Latte or even a Down and Dirty Blended Soy Oregon Caramel Chai.
Chai is rapidly becoming one of the most popular drinks ordered at coffee houses. Its versatility easily matches that of espresso, making it adaptable to even the most finicky consumer. A blended chai is a great thirst quencher on a hot summer day, while a warm chai tea latte is the perfect treatment for a slightly upset stomach.
The unique and extremely delicious taste of chai tea absolutely must be experienced.