Are you looking for a less addictive beverage alternative to café latte? Ever tried chai latte? While most coffee enthusiasts have come to associate the name ‘latte’ with coffee-based drinks, chai latte is a non-coffee (tea-based) beverage.
Chai latte has become increasingly popular in American coffee houses over the past few decades due to its fragrant taste and milder caffeine content. Chai has a sweet-spicy taste and a creamy texture, mostly added to a wide range of aromatic spices like cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, and black pepper.
I`ll look at the origins of chai latte, what it tastes like, and whether it’s a vegan drink or not. We also go through the various chai latte options available at a popular beverage outlet- Starbucks.
What does chai latte taste like?
Chai tea- also known as masala chai tea- is a spicy beverage that originated in India about 5,000 years ago and has become globally popular over the past few years. The introduction of black tea leaves into India from China during the 17th century completely changed the chai tea recipe into the mild stimulant beverage that we’ve come to love.
Chai has a spicy and sweet taste, coupled with a creamy texture. This can be attributed to its ingredient list, which typically includes brewed black tea leaves, milk, sugar, and a wide range of aromatic spices like cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, and black pepper. While it’s not imperative to add milk to qualify your beverage as chai tea, this ingredient has become a normal part of this beverage as it adds that delightful, creamy feel.
How would you describe a Chai Latte?
Most tea lovers usually use the words chai latte and chai tea interchangeably. However, these two drinks are slightly different from each other, and the former is a modern variation of the latter. Both drinks are prepared differently, giving them different tastes. For instance, a chai latte has a relatively sweeter taste than chai tea as it usually contains extra sugar, sweeteners, and whipped cream. Also, whereas chai tea is traditionally made using warm milk, chai latte is usually brewed using frothed milk.
Chai latte also has a noticeably richer flavor than traditional masala chai tea, as it is brewed using concentrated spiced tea. Chai latte also has a lighter texture than regular chai tea due to steamed milk. This beverage also has an airy layer of foam at the top, giving it its characteristic rich, creamy texture.
The texture of chai latte also depends on the kind of steamed milk you’re using. For instance, denser plant-based milk like macadamia nut milk or cashew nut milk will result in a thick, foamy texture. Conversely, lighter plant-based milk like almond milk and soy milk will produce a chai latte with a lighter texture.
Does a Chai Latte have Coffee in it?
Instead, a typical chai latte doesn’t contain any coffee and is made using concentrated black tea leaves. However- this doesn’t mean that a chai latte variation with coffee doesn’t exist. This chai latte variation is wildly popular and goes by ‘dirty chai.’ To make a dirty chai, baristas usually add a shot of espresso to their regular chai latte recipes.
Due to the inclusion of espresso, dirty chai usually bears a smokier aroma and taste compared to a chai latte. What’s more, it has a higher caffeine content due to the same reason. However, note that just because a regular chai latte doesn’t contain any coffee doesn’t mean that it’s a caffeine-free beverage. The main ingredient used in making chai latte is concentrated black tea, containing caffeine, albeit not as much as the amounts found in espresso.
What does Chai tea taste like at Starbucks?
Starbucks serves both hot chai tea latte and iced chai tea latte. The hot chai latte has a sweet, spicy taste due to the addition of spices, sugar, and other sweeteners. The Starbucks chai latte ingredient list includes steamed milk, water, chai tea concentrate, sugar, honey, ginger juice, vanilla, and a variety of natural flavors. The concentrate is usually black tea infused with a wide range of aromatic spices including cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and star anise.
The vast range of ingredients makes the Starbucks chai latte a delightful mix of sweet and spicy flavors. Star anise- for instance- adds a fragrant, licorice flavor, while the cloves bring a spicy flavor. If you don’t fancy a hot cup of chai latte at Starbucks, you can instead order their iced chai latte, which substitutes the steamed milk with cold milk and adds ice to the ingredient list for a cold, creamy drink.
Is Chai Latte Vegan?
Chai latte can be vegan or not- depending on what you’ve used to make it. For instance- the typical chai latte sold in most coffee shops is usually made using steamed dairy milk- making them non-vegan. Some baristas also use honey as a sweetener in their chai latte recipes- making their drinks unsuitable for vegan customers.
Chai latte is considered vegan if it doesn’t contain any animal byproducts. For instance- if the steamed milk used is plant-based milk like cashew milk or soy milk, then the chai latte qualifies as vegan. Also, if the black tea concentrate is vegan (doesn’t contain honey), then the drink qualifies as vegan. At Starbucks, for instance, vegan customers can enjoy a vegan chai latte by requesting for the regular concentrate to be substituted with a Teavana tea bag, which is vegan/ honey-free.