Chai is a tea that originated in India. In many languages, “chai” or “cha” is actually the word for “tea”. Today, chai tea is a popular drink worldwide, and can be found in most coffee shops or tea houses.
Because the creation of this drink dates back to more than five thousand years ago, there is no structured recipe to follow in order to create the perfect chai. However, it typically includes Assam or Darjeeling tea, sweetener, milk, and spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
How you like your chai might not be how another person enjoys theirs. Some enjoy it sweeter, with notes of vanilla, and others enjoy it spicier, with more black peppercorn. However, according to experts, what really defines a chai latte as “good?”
According to barista Seth Kim, most of the customers that come in prefer the spiced chai over the vanilla chai.
“The spiced chai tastes like how my mom made it at home,” says customer Amar Shah. His mother has been making chai lattes since before he was born, and the recipe has been passed down through his family for generations. “To me, the spicier it is, the more authentic it tastes.”
According to a Yelp review by Joshua D., Cafecito Organico’s chai tea was the best he’s ever had in Orange County.
He enjoyed the “ginger and molasses” that was added into the drink. Because ginger has a very strong and spicy taste, he probably enjoys the spiced chai over the sweet chai as well.
Yelp reviewer Andrea C., disagrees, stating that the chai tea from The Coffee Tale is the best.
“The coffee/tea is all fresh and delicious,” she says. “The teas are all loose leaf and are brewed on the spot. The spices and teas used are unique.”
The chai lattes from Starbucks and The Grove on Forest are known to be sweeter, so those that enjoy sweet notes of vanilla will enjoy the chai lattes from there.
With all of the differing opinions, it is impossible to choose one specific coffee shop and title their chai as The Best.
However, The Hathi Cooks, an Indian couple who specialize in Indian cuisine, claim to know how to make The Best Chai Ever.
Growing up with the drink, chai has always been a large part in their lives. To them, a chai is not a special treat you order when you’re at a coffeeshop, it’s what they drink every day. They have a very detailed recipe for “the best chai ever” on their website, and there are a large variety of spices on the ingredients list, such as peppercorn and ginger powder.
This coincides with what Shah said earlier, leading to the conclusion that the spicier the chai, the more authentic the taste and the better it is.
Chai recipes are different in every family and every coffee shop.
The Hathi Cooks say, “Some start by boiling ingredients, and others have strict rules about only stirring the chai 3 times in clockwise circles.”
For their best Chai ever, there are not any technical or specific directions you have to follow. You simply place all the listed ingredients into the pot and slowly boil it. Once it is boiling, strain it into a cup to catch the loose tea leaves, and then enjoy.
Whether you enjoy sweet, vanilla chai lattes or prefer them spiced, every coffee shop makes them differently. After visiting the multiple coffee shops mentioned in this article, it was surprising that the taste of one drink could vary so greatly depending on who made it. If you decide to try and find the chai that best suits your taste, or perhaps branch out from the usual coffee shop you order from, there are dozens of shops in Orange County that you can visit in order to find your perfect chai.