Chai is much-celebrated in the tea world, hence being famous across continents and oceans. It’s needless to say that this Indian spiced milked tea has been taking the world by storm! ‘Chai’ itself means ‘tea’, so saying ‘chai tea’ is basically repeating the word ‘tea’ twice (that’s why it’s only referred to as ‘chai’ and not ‘chai tea’!). And ‘latte’ is a direct translation of ‘milk’ in Italian.
From my research, I discovered there isn’t a single set recipe for chai – various concoctions to what is perceived as a perfect chai seem to exist. While there are different tips and tricks to making chai, there are several spices that are synonymous to the drink. Cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, peppercorns, cloves and other spices are staples in chai. Plus, black tea is included in the blend. Considering that milk tea is on the rage at the moment (hello, brown sugar milk tea!), chai is one of the classic and original milk teas from the East.
While an order of chai latte sounds like a daily go-to drink for many people around the world, I’ve not had a chai-based drink in ages. Why, you may ask? The answer’s simple: my tolerance of cinnamon, or lack thereof! I’ve never fancied cinnamon. It’s one of those spices that I’ve never grown to love, although I’ve got to admit that cinnamon rolls look divine. Between chestnuts (if you’re curious about my encounter with chestnuts, read my review of Starbucks’ Chestnut Espresso Frappe here) and cinnamon, chestnuts are slightly more bearable. For my very first iced chai latte fix, I decided to drop by the Coffee Bean and try their blend.
The medley of flavours from the spices add that aromatic touch and spicy edge to the chai latte. When I took my first sip, I instantly identified the cinnamon element. It was a punch to my flavour palate at first because I’ve not had predominantly cinnamon-based drinks and food in years! The milk reduced its intensity for me. As my tongue began familiarising itself with the cinnamon flavour, I began identifying other pieces to the chai puzzle. Hints of what I believe are a combination of cardamom, clove and star anise arose along with the cinnamon. After a few more sips, the spiciness from peppercorns made its presence. What I appreciated about the iced chai latte was that the milk balanced the spices’ intensity, and the peppercorn’s subtle heat was a nice contrast from the regular drinks I’d order regularly. The latte wasn’t too sweet either.
All in all, the iced chai latte I had at The Coffee Bean is a good introduction to the world of chai. Also, it’s a nice challenge for that tiny population of people who aren’t fond of cinnamon to give it a chance. And now to answer the crucial question for anyone who’s curious: have I changed my mind about cinnamon? Let’s just say that it’s not happening anytime soon!