If you’ve spent any time in coffee shops or specialty tea shops, chances are you’ve seen something on the menu called “masala chai” or “chai tea.” In case you’re wondering what this actually is, let us spill the tea.
First, a quick linguistics lesson. The term “chai tea” has a rich cultural history, but it’s technically a bit of a misnomer in the Western world, since the name “chai” is actually the Hindi word for tea! The more appropriate term for “chai tea” is actually “masala chai.” The Hindi term “masala chai” usually refers to a mixture of spices (collectively called “masala”) steeped into a hot, sweet, and spicy aromatic beverage (called “chai”) that has been an integral part of everyday Hindi life for centuries. So, what most people in the Western world call “chai tea” is actually more properly known as masala chai. But for all intents and purposes, we’ll stick to the term chai tea in this piece.
Although there’s no formal recipe or prep method for chai tea, it usually involves brewing a strong black tea with warming, aromatic spices like ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg. Recently, we’ve seen a ton of new chai tea mixes and tinctures emerge that feature functional ingredients, savory riffs, and spicy variations. With interesting ingredients like superfood turmeric, rose petals, fennel, peppercorns, and more, it’s a pretty delicious time to start getting into chai. We should also mention that chai tea is packed with health benefits, from boosting the body’s immune system to aiding with digestion.
Now that you’re basically a chai expert, here are our current favorite chai tea blends to cozy up with this winter.
VAHDAM Chai Tea Trio Gift Set
Featured as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things on Amazon this year, this top-selling VAHDAM Chai Tea Trio makes a great gift for the tea lover in your life. Packed in chic gold tea caddies, these chai teas come in three special blends: spicy Ginger Chai, woodsy Maharani Oolong Chai, and Sweet Cinnamon Chai.
Smith Teamaker Masala Chai Blend No. 33
Made with a base of rich, full-leaf Assam tea, this masala chai tea blend gets a bold, slightly spicy flavor from ginger root, cassia, black pepper, cloves, and cardamom. The brand recommends bringing freshly-drawn filtered water to a boil and then steeping the tea bags for 5 minutes to bring out this chai’s rich, full-bodied flavor.
Numi Organic Golden Chai Tea
This sultry Golden Chai Tea from Numi is made with a blend of certified organic Assam black tea, organic cinnamon, cardamom, anise, and ginger. It’s rich and spicy with a slight licorice flavor and has a medium amount of caffeine.
Yogi Chai Rooibos Tea (6-Pack)
Made with a base of naturally caffeine-free South African red roobois tea, this fragrant chai tea from Yogi gets an earthy warmth from spices including cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. Add a few teaspoons of your favorite raw honey to a hot mug of this chai tea for an aromatic mid-afternoon treat.
Stash Tea Organic Gold Cup Chai Tea (6-Pack)
This caffeine-free golden chai tea is made with a combination of aromatic spices including ginger, cardamom, and cloves, plus superfood turmeric for a sweet, spicy, and super smooth sipping experience. Reviewers find this blend particularly soothing and calming on the stomach and use this tea as a digestive aid.
Blue Lotus Masala Chai Tea
Made with black tea and spices including ginger root, ground cardamom, powdered cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, and cloves, this medium-caffeine chai tea is based on a traditional masala chai recipe. Reviewers love adding hot water and a few teaspoons of their favorite nut milk to this blend for a creamy and delicious beverage.
David Rio Tiger Spice Chai Tea Mix
A top-selling chai tea made in San Francisco, this rich and savory blend is made with black tea and fragrant spices, including cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. Reviewers love sipping this chai tea hot or over ice for a mid-afternoon treat.