For those new to the realm of chai, navigating the diverse array of flavors, textures, and terminology can be quite bewildering.
But worry not!
Read on to learn about the unique characteristics of chai tea and chai latte and how to make the perfect cup of each.
What Is Chai Tea?
“Chai” is the Hindi word for “tea,” and “masala” signifies the combination of spices used.
Chai tea can be enjoyed independently, but it’s often served with milk and sweetener to create a richer, creamier drink.
What Is a Chai Latte?
A chai latte is a popular twist on chai tea that has gained significant popularity in Western countries, particularly in coffee shops.
It combines the traditional spiced chai tea with steamed milk, creating a frothy and creamy beverage. The chai latte often has a more pronounced sweetness than chai tea, as it typically includes added sweeteners like sugar, honey, or flavored syrups.
Chai Tea vs. Chai Latte
Having covered the fundamentals of chai tea and chai latte, let’s delve further into what sets these two drinks apart.
We’ll explore the differences in their ingredients, compositions, flavors, colors, and textures to better grasp what sets the two drinks apart.
|– Black tea
– Spices (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, etc.)
– Optional: milk and sweetener
|– Chai tea concentrate or chai tea blend
– Steamed milk
– Sweetener (sugar, honey, or flavored syrup)
– Optional: frothed milk or whipped cream
|– Spicy, warming, and aromatic
– Can be sweetened to taste
|– Creamy and sweet, with spiced chai tea undertones
– Often sweeter than chai tea due to added sweeteners
|Lighter brown, influenced by the addition of milk
|Smooth, may have a slightly thicker mouthfeel if milk is added
|Creamy and frothy due to the steamed and frothed milk
Chai tea and chai latte both share a foundation of black tea and spices. The primary difference lies in adding steamed milk and sweeteners in chai lattes, which creates a creamier, frothier, and sweeter experience.
Chai tea, however, can be appreciated independently or with added milk and sweetener if desired.
Chai tea boasts a spicy, warming, and aromatic flavor profile, with the blend of black tea and spices taking center stage. Its taste can be adjusted with optional milk and sweetener, providing a customizable experience.
On the other hand, a chai latte provides a smoother and sweeter taste, as the fusion of chai tea and steamed milk blends the classic spiced tea flavors with the richness of dairy. The chai latte typically features a more pronounced sweetness, resulting from added sweeteners like sugar, honey, or flavored syrups.
Basically, the most significant flavor difference is the creaminess and sweetness from the steamed milk and added sweeteners in the latte.
The colors of chai tea without milk, chai tea with milk, and chai latte each have distinct characteristics.
Chai tea without milk displays a deep reddish-brown hue, reflecting the blend of black tea and spices.
Adding milk to chai tea creates a lighter, medium brown color due to blending the tea’s natural hue with the creamy white of the milk.
Lastly, a chai latte showcases an even lighter brown color, as it incorporates a more significant proportion of steamed milk, further diluting the intensity of the tea’s color.
In summary, the color spectrum ranges from the darkest shade in chai tea without milk to the lightest shade in chai latte, with chai tea with milk falling in between.
The texture of chai tea and chai latte varies due to the presence and preparation of milk in each beverage.
Chai tea has a smooth liquid texture, which may become slightly thicker when milk is added, but it retains its overall fluidity. The focus in chai tea is on the blend of tea and spices, which doesn’t significantly alter the texture.
In contrast, a chai latte presents a creamier and frothier texture created by combining chai tea with steamed milk. Steaming the milk for a chai latte introduces tiny air bubbles that give it a smooth, frothy texture.
This frothiness and the milk’s natural creaminess sets the chai latte apart from chai tea in terms of texture, offering a richer, smoother experience.
Making the Perfect Cup of Chai Tea and Chai Latte
Ready to put your newfound knowledge of chai tea and chai latte to the test? Let’s learn how to make the perfect cup of each.
- 1.5 cups (12 oz) of filtered water
- 1/2 of a 3-inch cinnamon stick
- 1.5 whole cloves
- 2 green cardamom pods
- 0.25-inch fresh ginger (peeled and sliced)
- 1 black tea bag or 2 tsp of loose-leaf black tea (strength varies by preference)
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) whole milk
- 1 tsp of sugar (depends on your preference)
- Begin by preparing the spice blend. Grind a cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom pods, and ginger root in a mortar. Use the pestle to grind the spices coarsely.
- Boil 1.5 cups of filtered water in a saucepan on the stove. Add the ground spice blend and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add sugar to taste.
- Add the black tea leaves or tea bags and let them boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes, depending on how strong you want your chai tea.
- Add 1/2 cup of milk. If the milk is cold, cook for another 2 minutes. If it’s already warm, add it and turn off the heat.
- Strain the tea into cups and enjoy immediately. Alternatively, pour the strained tea from a height into the cups to slightly cool and froth the tea.
To make a chai latte, follow these steps:
- Prepare the chai tea according to the recipe above.
- Place half of the prepared chai tea into a cup.
- In a separate container, lightly heat and froth the milk using a blender or aerate it by pumping warm milk in a French press.
- Pour the frothed milk over the chai tea in the cup.
- Sprinkle some cinnamon powder on top for added flavor and sweetness.
When making a chai latte, you can add sugar before or after adding frothed milk for extra sweetness.
Furthermore, you can flavor your milk with sugar or cinnamon before frothing it to give your beverage an extra flavor and spice!
You can also make your own chai tea concentrate from teabags and use it to make hot or iced chai lattes.
Best Pre-Made Chai Teas and Chai Latte Mixes
Instead of making chai yourself from scratch, you can opt for pre-made options that are widely available online. Here are some of the best chai teas we have sampled, including chai latte mixes.
Chai tea and chai latte are two distinctive beverages with their own unique flavors, textures, and experiences, appealing to tea enthusiasts worldwide.
Chai tea provides a spicy, aromatic, and soothing experience. At the same time, chai latte combines traditional chai flavors with the creamy richness of steamed milk.
Depending on your preferences, you might gravitate toward one over the other or enjoy both for different occasions.
Is Starbucks Chai Actually Chai?
Starbucks chai lattes are based on chai tea but use a pre-made concentrate with added sweeteners and flavorings. While it might not be a traditional chai, it still captures the essence of the spiced tea beverage.
What Is a Dirty Chai?
Dirty chai is a chai latte with a shot of espresso added, creating a fusion of chai and coffee flavors. The name “dirty” comes from the espresso’s dark color and bold flavor.
What’s the Difference Between Vanilla Chai and Chai Latte?
Vanilla chai is essentially a chai latte with added vanilla flavor, usually in the form of syrup or extract. This adds a sweet, smooth, and creamy note to the drink.
What Kind of Milk Is Best for Chai Tea?
It ultimately comes down to personal preference when deciding which milk to use for your chai tea. If you’re making traditional chai tea, it calls for whole cow’s milk. However, if that isn’t your thing, try swapping it out for skimmed, almond, soy, or oat milk for a different texture and flavor that meets your dietary requirements.
Are Chai Lattes Unhealthy?
Chai lattes can be high in sugar and calories due to the added sweeteners and milk. Still, you can make them healthier. Gor for lower-calorie milk options, and replace the table sugar with a calorie-free sweetener.
Homemade chai lattes are also healthier, as you have more control over the ingredients.