Which chai tea is best?
Technically, “chai” means “tea” in Hindi, and what is commonly referred to as chai tea is really masala chai, a blend of black tea and spices. Whatever you want to call it, chai’s sweet, spicy flavor has made it a popular drink across the globe.
If you want to make your own chai at home, you’ll need to pick a decent chai tea, whether you opt for loose or bagged, for a classic flavor profile or something a bit different. The Tao of Tea 500 Mile Chai is an excellent loose-leaf option.
What to know before you buy chai tea
Loose vs. bagged
You can buy either loose or bagged chai tea. Loose tea generally gives you the best flavor, but bagged tea is more convenient.
- Loose: Loose chai is made up of tea leaves and whole spices that you steep and then strain or use with an infuser. It contains higher-quality leaves and spices than most bags, so the flavor is superior. However, some people don’t want the extra time and effort it takes to prepare and clean up after.
- Bagged: Chai tea bags might not give you quite the same flavor complexity you’d get from loose varieties, but the tea still tastes good. It’s much more convenient than loose tea for brewing and throwing away.
Most chai has a classic flavor profile of fragrant spices, but you can also find variations.
- Classic: While there’s no rule about which spices must be in classic masala chai, most contain at least cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and ginger. Some also contain star anise, fennel seed, black or white pepper, nutmeg or allspice.
- Alternatives: You can also find alternatives to classic chai, such as vanilla chai, pumpkin spice chai or golden turmeric chai. They contain standard chai spices, plus some extras.
What to look for in a quality chai tea
Chai is traditionally made with black tea. A blend of Assam and Darjeeling teas is typical, but you can find alternatives. Oolong chai has a milder flavor but is still in the black tea family. You can also find a handful of chai green teas for an even more subtle tea flavor.
Some chai claims to use organic ingredients, but if you want to make sure it’s above board, look for versions with organic certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By default, this is also free of genetically modified organisms.
Tins or resealable bags help your tea stay fresh longer. Of course, you can use your own tea canister or another container, so this isn’t a dealbreaker for most buyers.
If you choose tea bags, look for ones that are unbleached and free from other unwanted substances, such as dyes and adhesives.
How much you can expect to spend on chai tea
Basic boxes of tea bags and loose tea cost under $5, while the highest quality blends and large packs can cost as much as $20.
Chai tea FAQ
Is it OK to drink chai tea every day?
A. Yes, it’s perfectly safe to drink chai every day, assuming there’s no medical reason why you can’t consume caffeine or any of the spices chai contains. It’s essentially just tea with added spices, so it’s no different from drinking regular tea daily.
Can you drink chai tea without milk?
A. Although it’s traditionally served with milk, you can drink your chai however you prefer it. So, if you want to forgo milk, that’s absolutely fine. If you’re dairy-intolerant or vegan, know that it also tastes great with non-dairy milk, including oat milk and soy milk.
Is chai high in caffeine?
A. The amount of caffeine depends on the chai you choose, but it isn’t high compared to coffee or highly caffeinated teas, such as matcha. Traditional chai consists of black tea and a blend of spices, so it contains roughly the same amount of caffeine as a standard cup of black tea. Although it varies, chai and other teas contain about half as much caffeine as coffee.
However, you can also find some caffeine-free chai teas made with rooibos tea or just spices and no true tea element. These are sometimes called chai herbal teas.
What’s the best chai tea to buy?
Top chai tea
What you need to know: Perfect for serious tea drinkers, this loose-leaf chai contains curled tea leaves that are perfect for brewing using the traditional boiling method.
What you’ll love: It’s made using organic tea and spices, containing a traditional blend of black tea, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and ginger. It’s nicely balanced with a classic flavor and is great sweetened or unsweetened.
What you should consider: Some buyers seem to receive their tea in tins and others in cardboard containers, so don’t buy it just for the tin.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top chai tea for the money
What you need to know: Naturally caffeine-free, it’s ideal for anyone who likes the spicy flavors of chai without the buzz.
What you’ll love: It has a complex flavor from a blend of cinnamon, fennel seed, ginger root, orange peel, licorice root, cloves and chicory. It’s USDA-certified organic and verified non-GMO. Since it comes in bags, it’s convenient to brew. Plus, the bags are unbleached and plastic-free.
What you should consider: The tea bags are individually wrapped, which isn’t the most eco-friendly option, although some people find it convenient.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: With 100 tea bags in a resealable packet, this is perfect for chai lovers who want to stock up.
What you’ll love: The eco-friendly bags are made from hemp fiber and aren’t bleached or dyed. The chai contains a blend of Assam and Keemun teas, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and pepper. It’s certified USDA organic.
What you should consider: The spices could be stronger, so you may need two bags for mugs larger than 8 ounces.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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