Cold weather begs for a warming cup of tea, and chai is one of the best options. Full of baking spices like cardamom, cinnamon, clove, allspice, pepper and ginger, this Indian style tea speaks of exotic nights, bright colors and hot curries all blending to create a memorable flavor in your cup.
You can drink this tea plain or spruce it up with milk and sweetener to make a chai latte. Our advice when taking this route, only add three ounces of water when brewing and then, after the tea is steeped, sweeten with honey to your discretion and add one to three ounces of milk.
Name: Catskill Chai
Blender: Travelers Tea
Type: Fair trade Assam tea with ginger, allspice, fennel, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper and clove
Aroma: Like a cozy blanket, this tea coats the senses in warming folds of cinnamon, sweet cardamom and spicy ginger.
Taste: Colored a dark reddish brown, this brew has an earthy quality and thickness to it that begs to be drunk on a cold morning. The spices prove strong but balanced, and though you get distinct traces of cinnamon, pepper, ginger and allspice, they come in waves to create a harmony of flavor.
Tips: The package recommends brewing for five minutes, but it’s better to cap it at four or else the tannins get too strong.
Name: Bourbon Vanilla Chai
Blender: Rare Tea Cellar
Type: High Mountain black tea, Tahitian vanilla bean, Guatemalan ginger, green cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cloves and black pepper
Aroma: In a way, the nose on this blend is like a spiced syrup, thick and full of sweet, warming flavors.
Taste: One can picture old and refined gentlemen sipping cups of this strong, dark tea in lieu of a boozy nightcap. While they discuss politics, art and the latest trend in fast cars, the imagined elegant men marvel at the vanilla essence that lingers on the palate well after the woodsy liquor has dissipated.
Tips: You can brew the leaves again if you wish, just steep for five minutes rather than four.
Name: Oprah Chai Tea
Type: Rooibos and black tea with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, carob, black pepper, chicory root and cloves
Aroma: Cinnamon dominates the nose of this blend, but it has a slight bread-like quality too that makes it smell like freshly baked gingersnap cookies.
Taste: There’s a natural sweetness to this blend that proves pleasing, and helps balance out the richness of the strong black tea and heady spices. The liquor remains velvety and full, making this tea almost like a meal or the perfect sip to have at breakfast.
Tips: You don’t need honey or sugar to make this tea sugary, it has enough sweetness on its own. Add a dash of milk to sooth the sumptuous flavors, or drink it straight for a pleasing cup.
Name: Cha Cha Chai
Type: Organic Indian black tea with ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, clove, cardamom and ginger
Aroma: Spicy hot with a whiff of sweet cinnamon around the nose.
Taste: This bold cup of chai has all the components you think of when imagining this Indian spice blend. It’s strong and rich with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.
Tips: To get the most out of this brew, steep according to the directions on the package and you’ll be rewarded with a traditional taste that makes you feel like you’re in India.
Blender: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Type: Black tea with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, clove, pink peppercorn, lemon peels, orange peels and licorice root
Aroma: Cardamom dominates the nose on this blend, not unlike an Indian market in the early morning.
Taste: You can almost forget this brew is made with black tea as the melody of baking spices come together to rule the blend. Slight citrus notes brighten the velvety spices, and for those looking to get a true taste of India, this sings the tales of rajahs, elephants and Hindu gods.
Tips: Try this tea if you are seeking a real spice-driven cup of chai. The best part, you can enjoy this easy-drinking brew without adding sweetener or milk.
Name: Golden Chai
Blender: Numi Organic Tea
Type: Organic Assam black tea with cinnamon, anise, cardamom and ginger
Aroma: The scent of this chai tea isn’t overly powerful, and there are subtle hints of cinnamon and a cool, almost minty licorice essence that comes out when you stick your nose into the cup.
Taste: By far the mildest of the brews, this light, golden tea offers delicate notes of spice with cinnamon taking the reins. Overall, this easy-to-drink blend isn’t a strong cup of tea to wake you up, but more of something to warm you at the end of the day.
Tips: Brew this tea for four to five minutes to get the most flavor from the bag.
Photos by Linnea Covington