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Cozy Chai - A Brief History and Two Chai Latte Recipes.

chai spices in hand with tea cup

Discover Chai Tea Benefits, Recipes & More

I once had a friend who described chai tea as “Christmas in a cup.” And this girl would drink a chai tea latte every. day. So in my mind, I thought, “Wow, she must really love Christmas.” 

Anything with a spiced cinnamon or clove vibe reminds me of the holidays too. Everything is warm, cozy, and pumpkin-spice themed, and sometimes, I search for that sense of comfort all year round—admittedly even when it’s 100 degrees and humid here in Florida. I'm a firm believer that you can enjoy chai during any season. Who are we to put seasonal parameters on what we like? That would be like telling me that I could only have chips and salsa in the summer...you can’t put me in a box!

What Is Chai Tea?

Let’s start with the basics—maybe if we have a better understanding of what chai is, where it comes from, and how it can benefit you, you won’t feel as weird drinking it when it’s a million degrees. In fact, chai tea spices and recipes are an important part of many cultures around the world.

pouring authentic chai tea into a cup

To start, according to The Spruce Eats, ancient masala chai, which translates to “spiced tea,” ties back to royalty and herbal medicine, specifically in India and Thailand. According to some sources, the drink dates back anywhere from 5- to 9,000 years ago when it was prepared either hot or cold to remedy mild health issues. Then, in 1835, the British set up tea farms in India where traditional black tea was sourced, and eventually mixed into local masala chai recipes. This is the first known appearance of chai tea as we know it today. But, there’s also a dark side to chai origin and a really important rebellion by the people of India during the time of British occupation and the expansion of their tea empire there.

In the 1800s, the British was giving away Indian land to Europeans who promised to grow tea and build processing facilities so they could compete with the Chinese. They were using indentured servants to continue to expand the growth of the tea market, but the Indians couldn’t match what the Chinese growers and processors had perfected over hundreds of years. Export sales were slow, so in the early 1900s the British tea plantation owners collaborated on a 40-year-long campaign to sell the lower grade tea grown in India directly to the locals. It worked and within a few decades, over 70% of the tea grown in India was being consumed domestically.

However, somewhere along the way, roadside tea vendors called, chaiwallas, started adding masala to tea sometime between World War I and the 1930s. The Brits were afraid they were diluting the tea with the masala spices, so they tried to ban the chaiwallas from making tea this way and shut vendors down. But, the people rebelled, pushing harder on the adoption of masala chai tea, which is now the national drink of India.

making chai tea in IndiaPhoto by Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash

British tea in India has always been a classist drink, meaning, depending on what you drank and in what vessel, it was apparent which class you belonged to. The lower class people of India, who could barely afford to eat, would drink masala chai as a form of sustenance as well. The classist view of masala chai has changed in recent history and is now becoming trendy even in the western world.

According to Wikipedia’s in-depth look at chai, they define present-day masala chai as “a tea beverage made by boiling black tea in milk and water with a mixture of aromatic herbs and spices.” However, unlike traditional masala chai, Embrew’s Cinnamon Oolong Chai blend is not made with dairy, but it does feature all of the spices you love like cardamom, black pepper, and cloves—with a pinch of extra cinnamon, because why not?

Is Chai Tea Good For You?

Reaping the health benefits of chai tea is one of the many reasons why you’ll find me drinking this blend anytime, anywhere. According to Simple Loose Leaf’s article called “10 Chai Tea Health Benefits,” this rich blend is recognized for its energy boosting and antioxidant properties, as well as its chemoprotective effect. Additionally, it can aid in digestion, help regulate cholesterol, potentially reduce inflammation, relieve stomach pain, help improve heart health, encourage weight loss, and some studies show it could protect the brain. In fact, studies like the one cited in their article suggest that drinking three cups a day may help protect against diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Check out some of the more nitty-gritty takeaways I found important from this piece:

  • Ginger & black pepper can help digestion and improve overall gut health 
  • Black tea, cinnamon, black pepper, ginger, and cloves can help reduce bad cholesterol 
  • Herbal chai blends may be better than black tea for an upset stomach
  • Cinnamon may help people with metabolic syndrome

Our 2 Favorite Chai Tea Lattes

What’s the fun in learning about chai tea benefits if you don’t know how to make some simple, tasty recipes at home? Here are my favorite go-tos for days when I want to mix up my morning brew:

Recipe #1: Hot Chai Tea Latte

hot chai tea latte with tea bags

Using our Cinnamon Oolong Chai tea, brew a hot cup like you normally would—we recommend bringing 10-12 oz. of water to 205°F, then steeping for 3-4 minutes. As your tea steeps, grab a milk or dairy alternative (I love extra creamy oat milk), and froth it using a cool little handheld frother like this one I found on Amazon. After your tea has steeped, remove the bag and top off your cup with the foamy milk. Lastly, sprinkle a dash of extra cinnamon on top for some more fragrance and kick.

Recipe #2: Iced Chai Tea Latte

iced chai latte recipe with tea bags

This recipe takes a bit longer to make, so I recommend preparing the tea a few hours ahead of time or even the night before so it has time to chill.

  • I simply brew a hot cup of tea like normal —10-12 oz. of water to 205°F, but use 50/50 ratio of water to milk (I used home made walnut/almond milk)
  • Steep long for a total of 7-9 minutes, which is an extra 4-3 minutes than the traditional hot tea brewing instructions.
  • Then put it in a glass in the fridge until it’s cold— remember that the glass should be about 3/4 full to leave room for ice later.
  • Once chilled, add ice, and finally, dash a bit of of cinnamon and cardamom on top for some more punch.

Whether it’s Christmas morning or the 4th of July, does it really matter what you have in your cup? I mean, other cultures have been brewing chai tea for centuries and enjoying its health benefits, so why can’t we? Chai tea lovers unite! If this article got you in the mood to get cozy and comfy in your PJs, make sure you read our other article about vegan eggnog infused with Cinnamon Oolong Chai, or even better—maple caramel sauce infused with Cinnamon Oolong Chai. Have some extra tea bags laying around after their first steep? Learn how to save and re-steep on our blog, too….we never let good tea go to waste in this house.