Loved by India and now Westerners alike, chai goes back thousands of years. Discover chai facts and recipes to enhance your enjoyment of this beverage.
September 21 is National Chai Day, a perfect time to talk about the warm and spicy goodness of this delicious tea in a category all its own. Cheers to chai, beloved by the entire country of India and now popular around the world.
What Is Chai?
The name “chai” is the Hindi word for “tea.” It was derived from “cha,” the Chinese word for “tea.” “Masala chai” means “spiced tea,” which is what “chai” has become synonymous with – a tea brewed with milk, sugar, and warming spices. The recipes vary by region and personal preference. Traditionally, chai is a black tea mixed with strong spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, and black peppercorns. When people say “chai,” they are generally referring to “masala chai.” To say “chai tea” literally translates to “tea tea,” so try not to say that.
Chai is basically the national drink of India, with most citizens consuming three to four cups daily from morning to night. Chaiwalas (or chaiwallahs, either spelling meaning “tea person”), are everywhere in India. They prepare, sell and serve chai from corner stands and small shops. In India, chaiwalas and others generally prepare chai from scratch with fresh.
Chai is usually prepared as a pre-made blend of black tea and spices. What kind of chai tea can you taste in our Harney and Sons teas selection?
Indian Spice, a black tea with cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg
Chaga Chai, from our Wellness collection made with wild Canadian Chaga mushrooms and chai spices
Let’s Have Some Chai
Brewing chai is no different than brewing other teas unless you choose to make it with all fresh ingredients instead of using a chai-blended tea. You can use milk if you wish (your favorite kind will work just fine) and add the sweetener of your choice (or don’t!). Or you can use a combination of milk and water to steep your chai leaves. If you prefer an iced chai, steep your tea in hot water but don’t heat the milk and pour it all over ice.
Chai lattes, both hot and cold, have gained in popularity throughout the U.S. If you order a “dirty chai” when you’re out, it means they’ve added a shot of espresso to your tea. Hence, the very appropriate name!
To further expand your chai horizons, try out these recipes!
A great twist on a classic cookie!
1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/3 C light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
2 tbsp Harney chai, pulsed in food processor until finely ground
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt, optional and to taste
¼ C granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large mixing bowl and electric mixer) combine the butter, sugars and beat on medium-high speed until creamed and well combined, about 3 minutes.
Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until well combined, light and fluffy, about 3 minutes
Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flour, chai tea, cinnamon, cardamom, baking soda, ginger, cloves, cream of tartar, optional salt and beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.
Using a medium 2-inch cookie scoop or your hands, form approximately 12 equal-sized mounds of dough (2 heaping tablespoons each), roll into balls, and flatten about halfway.
Preheat oven to 350°F, line a baking sheet with a Silpat or spray with cooking spray.
In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves and stir to combine.
Dredge each mound of dough through cinnamon-sugar.
Place dough mounds on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart and bake for about 9 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just set, even if slightly undercooked in the center; don’t overbake for soft, pillowy cookies. Cookies firm up as they cool.
Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for about 10 minutes before serving, enjoy!
Chai Tea Pumpkin Pie
We all love a good cuppa with a slice of pumpkin pie in the fall -- but what if you could incorporate the spicy goodness of chai tea right into the pie itself?
4 ½ C crushed gingersnap cookies
8 tbsp butter, melted
15 oz. can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling), divided
Combine the crushed gingersnap cookies and the melted butter. Press into a 9-inch pie pan and bake at 325°F for 10 minutes. Let cool.
Increase oven temperature to 350°F.
In a medium bowl, combine the evaporated milk with 3 oz. of the pumpkin puree. Mix well. Add chai tea, spices, and salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together the two beaten eggs with the remaining 12 oz. pumpkin puree.
Pour the pumpkin/egg mixture into the bowl with the evaporated milk mixture. Combine well.
Pour the filling into the gingerbread cookie crust.
Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean.
Top with whipped cream, ice cream, or whatever you prefer, which could be nothing but a cup of tea on the side!
If you’re already a chai fan, we hope you discovered a new fact or recipe to help you celebrate National Chai Day. If you weren’t a chai fan before, we hope we’ve piqued your interest and will try this unique and wildly popular beverage. Sitting down with a cup could become the chai-light of your day!