Several factors can come into play when choosing what type of masala (spiced) chai you want to purchase. The world of chai is vast. There are endless options and variations. You can have two tea or coffee houses on the same street. One may sell a purely herbal chai blend, and the other may have a variation that has black tea in the combination as an example. That is just when visiting your local spot or a Starbucks. The options expand when you get to buying online. I have you covered with a few tips to help you pick out the right masala chai, whether purchasing to bring home for brewing or getting that perfect latte!
1. Black Tea vs. Herbal Blends
As discussed in my article about what chai is, there are many different types of blends. You’ll want to decide if you are looking for a chai with black tea in the mixture, such as the African Chai from Just Tea, or just an herbal blend like Turmeric Chai by Bellocq. I would say that the consideration is if you want caffeine or not because the black tea typically does not add to the flavor, in my opinion, unless altered in some way such as smoked or heavily roasted. I would also warn that because masala chai is usually a blend, the black tea is not the only focus. That means I do not find a considerable boost in the caffeine department. Herbal combinations can be great to end the day.
2. The Ingredients That Make Up The Masala Blend
Ingredients are a big deal because a significant amount of the masala chai is spices. As I have suggested before, be sure to read labels of anything you are looking to purchase or be sure to ask the shop owner or individual serving you at the tea or coffee house. Many blends can include cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, vanilla, cardamom, clover, and allspice. However, it may center around an ingredient such as turmeric or lavender if it is a unique blend. If you are sensitive or allergic to any ingredient, you want to know what you are purchasing. For example, I am not a massive fan of lavender. I am always looking out for it in any masala blend I purchase. I am also the type of chai drinker who enjoys it with cream and honey. If my combination has a lot of ginger or cayenne pepper, it may require a bit more thought on how I would use it.
3. Loose Leaf, Bagged, or Liquid Concentrate
To me, this is a lot about preference or can be situational. I mainly prefer loose tea in general but will buy bagged as well, depending on the company. Bagged provides you a little more control, a bit less messy if you are on the road. Masala chai concentrate, to me, is about whether you are ordering a latte. Many chai lattes at your local coffee or tea shop use a liquid concentrate combined with your choice of milk. Concentrates by nature tend to have a bit more of an intense flavor, which I enjoy. You can purchase liquid concentrates, such as the one pictured from The Chai Box, for home use as well!
4. If Home Brewing, How Much Masala Chai Do I Purchase?
An important question. Because it is easy to buy too much tea, you want to think about how much you will drink your blend, the time of day you are likely to drink it, and any other ways you may utilize it. I use my masala chai blends usually in the morning to start the day or to bake pastries. For that reason, I typically try to have two or three blends on hand to rotate. I usually reserve my herbal blends for later in the day and will use purely for drinking, which doesn’t require me to have as many of those on hand.
Let me know if these are helpful when considering what masala chai you will purchase. Keep finding your tea side!