Why Chai is a Great Coffee Alternative
Coffee is the second most consumed drink on the planet, only second to water! It is loved by billions of people for its invigorating effects, punchy smell, and that warm hug you get from it in the morning!
However, there probably aren’t that many people that took their very first sip of coffee and thought “mmm delicious!”.
Coffee is most certainly an acquired taste, but for some people, there aren’t any alternatives.
However, drinking a Chai Latte instead of your regular cup of coffee in the morning can still give you that energy boosts with a completely different taste! Caffeine comes from the black tea that Chai is blended with, along with many Indian herbs and spices.
So, should you really retire your espresso machine forever? Let’s find out!
What is Chai Tea?
Chai, or Masala Chai to give it its full title, is a drink made from a blend of Indian herbs and spices. Whilst many people have heard of Chai in latte form, it actually originated from black tea.
The word Chai actually translates to “Tea” in Hindi, and the main flavors found in it are Cardamom, Cinnamon, Ginger, and Cloves – “What Is Chai and How to Make It” February 2019, by Priya Krishna via Food & Wine.
Whilst there are common themes in the herbs and spices used in Chai tea, it is traditionally blended into a recipe passed down generations. Each family tends to have their own signature blend of Chai, so pinning down an exact “original” flavor combination is not easy.
Unlike most coffee alternatives, Chai tea (technically ‘tea tea’) is bright yellow in color, rather than the traditional earthy brown.
This gives it an incredibly vibrant look in the cup, almost as bright as turmeric!
However, Chai is often served in tea or latte form with the accompaniment of milk. More specifically, whole milk.
Whole milk is used to balance out the powerful herbs and spices, giving Chai a creamy and luxurious mouth feel.
As far as a sweetener is concerned, some people choose to add plain old white sugar to their Chai, just to take the edge off the strong aromatic flavors.
Benefits of Drinking Chai Tea
Whilst there are a number of benefits to drinking a good old cup of Joe in the morning, Chai has its own health-related upsides.
As per Healthline – “How Chai Tea Can Improve Your Health” by Alina Petre July 2017, the potential benefits of drinking Chai tea include:
- Better Heart Health
- Improved Digestion
- Lower Blood Sugar
- Can Reduce Nausea.
Artful Tea also notes in “15 Chai Tea Benefits for Health and Wellness” (Margaret Wack February 2021) that Chai is:
- Rich in Antioxidants
- Increases Alertness
- Can Reduce Inflammation
- Improves Oral Health
- Can Boost Your Immune System.
Ingredients in Chai Tea
Although the specific ingredients of traditional Indian Chai can vary, the most popular brand you’ll find online or in your local supermarket is “Drink me, Chai”. Their signature Vanilla Chai Latte blend includes the following:
- Skimmed Milk Powder
- Coconut Oil
- Dried Glucose Syrup
- Caramelised Sugar
- Black Tea Extract
- Thickener: Cellulose Gum
- Natural Flavouring, Cinnamon
- Milk Protein
- Stabiliser: E451
How Does Chai Taste
When you first open a tin of Chai you are hit with a burst of fragrant flavor. Naturally, Chai tea comes in a range of different flavors, but the overriding sense you get is that this is an aromatic experience that will stimulate your senses.
As far as Drink Me Chai goes, there are a number of flavors to choose from, including:
Drink Me Chai’s most popular blend is Vanilla, so that is the one I went with.
On first impressions, the powder itself looks a little lighter in color than I was expecting. This is most likely down to the powdered milk that makes this Chai a creamy, smooth latte.
This also means there is no need to add milk to this hot drink, it comes pre-made and ready to go!
As you can see, there is a crema-like foam that forms thanks to the natural creaminess of the milk powder, which is paired with the vibrant colors of the spices.
On the packaging, the recommended serving is 3 teaspoons added to hot water. This gives you a full-bodied depth of flavor that fills your nostrils with Indian spices.
As far as taste goes, the Drink Me Chai Vanilla has a rich blend of comforting sweetness and warming spiced aftertaste. It is not overpowering but offers a range of tasting notes that will leave you wanting more.
Who are “Drink Me Chai”?
Drink me Chai was founded in London, UK by Amanda Hamilton 2004, a hot drinks entrepreneur. As per A Cuppa With The Original Spice Girl, Holwood Farm 2014, Hamilton found her business feet “selling tea and other drinks to travelers at stations in the southeast of London from three-wheel ‘tuk tuks’”.
She was then inspired to start up Drink Me Chai after a trip to India, where she fell in love with the aromatic drink.
Given how well-presented and popular the Drink Me Chai products are, you would perhaps think they were owned by a much bigger company, like Nestle for example.
However, Drink Me Chai remains an independent brand and is thriving! They sell their Chai latte blends to over 30 countries and their products were made available on all Ryanair flights, which opened up the business to the masses.
Drink Me Chai has made a habit of giving back to the Indian communities which inspired Hamilton to start the brand in the first place. As a family-run business, they understand and appreciate the importance of community.
Should You Buy Chai Tea or Latte Mix?
If you are a coffee lover that is looking for a bright, spiced alternative to your morning cup of Joe, then the Chai latte most definitely fits the bill.
Whilst Chai is a very different flavor to regular coffee, it can serve as a welcome break from the earthiness and bold taste too.
As far as Drink Me Chai is concerned, they are one of the leading Chai tea makers out there, and its products are second to none. The company is incredibly popular, operating in over 30 different countries, and it is easy to see why!
Overall, Chai tea is actually a great alternative to coffee, even though the taste is so different.
You’ll still get that caffeine boost that coffee offers, but there are also a number of health-boosting qualities that Chai possesses. If you are looking for something a bit different to start your morning, then definitely give a Chai latte a try!
Does Chai Latte Contain Caffeine?
Yes, but not as much as coffee. Since Chai is made from black tea (which contains around 50 mg per serving), there is enough caffeine to give you an energizing effect. By comparison, the average cup of freshly brewed coffee contains around 100 – 150 mg of caffeine. So, Chai will get you going in a more leisurely manner.
Is it Chai Tea or Coffee?
Although Chai is usually served in latte form, it is actually made from black tea and blended with a range of Indian spices. Therefore, to call Chai coffee would be a misnomer, it is actually better described as tea.
What Does Chai Taste Like?
Chai comes in a range of different flavors, and traditional Chai tea actually varies depending on the family that brews it.
Typically, Chai has a distinctly aromatic taste, with notes of cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. In some ways, it could be loosely compared to a Starbucks Pumpkin Iced Latte.
Is Chai Healthy?
Yes, absolutely. Chai contains many herbs and spices that have health benefits ranging from improved digestion to reduced inflammation, to improved oral health.