Indian restaurants throughout the U.S. seem to serve chai with a heavy handedness on the milk, sugar and masala added to black tea, which is certainly one way to enjoy it. But as we learned, it is not the only way chai is had in India. In fact, just as dialects, culinary customs and clothing differ from region to region in India, so do methods of making chai. This is in no way an exhaustive list but rather a collection of popular chai making methods and their origins. Keep Calm and Sip on!
1. Butter Chai
Butter Chai is all the rage in the Himalayan region (Northern part) of India and yes, they actually put butter in the tea. According to The Better India, nomads will drink 40 cups a day to keep up with high altitudes and cracked lips! We loved this recipe My Heart Beets for buttered chai; click here to read.
2. Kashmiri Tea
Kashmiri or Noon tea is stunning to look at. This tea hails from the Northern region of India. Normally it’s a lovely bright pink hue made with tea leaves that are used to make green tea. It can also be a beautiful yellow hue. It’s a favorite of both Indians and Pakistanis and made with saffron, cinnamon, almonds and cloves. People on both sides of the border enjoy this woody flavored tea. The wood flavors comes from green tea. People in this region add milk to this tea for a creamy, buttery, texture. Tulsi is known as holy basil and is a sacred plant in India. Tulsi Chai comes from the Northern regions of India, specifically from the Assam and Dooars region.
4. Kadak Chai
Kadak Chai is a stronger version of regular masala tea. It’s made by adding loose leaf tea and boiling it longer than you normally do. It really belongs to every region as anyone who needs stronger tea can make it. And as Love Laugh Mirch suggests, you can make it with any type of milk you prefer.
5. Adrak Lemongrass Chai
Chai on the west side is usually made with black tea. In places like Gujarat and Maharashtra, people add lemongrass and ginger (adrak) to their teas. The tea is strong, fragrant, and excellent for battling colds. Want to make it? We recommend using Noms for the Poor’s recipe. Click here to read.
6. Cutting Chai
Cutting Chai in Mumbai (western region) is extremely strong. The chai is made with cardamom, ginger, and fennel. It’s made with black tea that comes from the Assam region. You can only get half a glass when you order this delicious masala chai on roadside stands because of its strength.
7. Kesar Chai
Kesar Chai is a popular drink on the East side of India, especially in Odisha. It’s spiced and a flavorful variation on traditional masala tea. You’ll be using saffron, pepper, cinnamon and more to get this creamy tea. Saffron turns tea a pretty yellow color which means you’ll have a buttery looking tea. You can add any type of milk you’d like from evaporated to condensed to regular milk.
8. Sulaimani Chai
Sulaimani chai comes from the Southern region of India. It’s a masala black tea which is made with lemon. You don’t actually need milk in this recipe and it’s best if you drink it to help digest a meal.
9. Madrasi Chai
If you’ve never seen this chai poured, stop what you’re doing and watch this video. It’s beautiful. And what’s better are the flavors found in this Southern style tea: ginger, mace, black pepper, cinnamon.
How do you drink your chai? Have a chai recipe you’d like to share? Share your take with us at [email protected] for submission consideration.