If you frequent coffee shops and cafes, then chai tea is no stranger to you. Its spicy flavors, sweet cinnamon notes, and fragrant aromas make it a heart-warming drink that has Fall written all over it.
While chai tea is indeed a blend of tea you can buy in tea bags, most coffee shops make their chai lattes by mixing a chai concentrate with steamed milk. The spiciness, sweetness, and quality of concentrate differs between shop to shop, but it’s usually a strong reduction composed of black tea, spices, and a sweetener. For my palate, I prefer a chai concentrate that’s deep in flavor, not overly sweet, contains a pleasant ginger kick, and is balanced in spiciness; some concentrates are too heavy in cinnamon, anise, ginger, or pepper, any of which will overwhelm the subtle dance of flavors that make a good chai shine.
One notable difference between our chai and most other concentrates is that ours contains rooibos in place of black tea, which we have a few solid reasons for:
- Kim & I don’t drink all that much caffeine, despite being avid coffee drinkers. (We still drink a cup of decaf every morning.)
- Because rooibos is an herbal tea, it can’t be overcooked like black tea. One big downfall of many concentrates is that they’re bitter, which occurs from steeping black tea for too long or at too high of a temperature. Rooibos, on the other hand, can be boiled for hours with no loss in quality.
- Rooibos is deep & sweet in flavor, which softens the intense edge of the spices. Chai concentrates made with rooibos tend to be more soothing as opposed to astringent on the palate.
Admittedly, chai concentrate sounds like one of those scary culinary things that’s “best left for the professionals,” but making it is quite simple. The only special skill required is patience! Making it goes a little like toasting spices, steeping all of the ingredients in boiling water, straining it, and then reducing that mixture by half. To make a latte from there, all you do is mix 1 part concentrate with 2 parts milk of your choice. In our humble opinion, oat and soy milk pair best because they’re creamy, subtle in flavor, and accent the chai instead of overpowering it… I’m looking at you almond milk.
We hope you guys enjoy whipping up some of the best chai tea lattes your lips have ever graced using this simple concentrate! If you like what your tastebuds are tellin’ ya, leave behind a nice rating, share your thoughts with us in the comments, or show us your creations by tagging @noeggsorham on Instagram.
How to Make Chai Tea Concentrate
Robust, sweet, and aromatic chai concentrate that makes chai lattes a breeze.
- 5 c water
- 1/2 c (96 g) brown sugar
- 10 bags of pure rooibos tea
- 4 cinnamon sticks (about 3 inches each), broken in half
- 1 oz fresh ginger (about a 4-inch knob) cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 30 cloves
- 1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 star anise
- Heat a medium or large pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add in cinnamon sticks, cloves, black peppercorns, and star anise. Cook, moving pot around frequently, until the spices are aromatic and a few peppercorns begin to pop; about 4 minutes.
- Add water, sugar, tea, and the rest of the spices to the pot, boost heat to high, and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce heat to medium, put on a lid, and keep at a low boil / high simmer for 45 minutes, stirring a couple times throughout.
- Turn off heat and let rest for 30 minutes with the lid on.
- Pour tea through a nut-milk bag or cheesecloth into a pitcher or large bowl and gently press to strain. Place the same pot as before on a scale, tare out its weight, and add the chai concentrate back into the pot. Note how much the concentrate weighs, then tare it out again. Now, place the pot with the concentrate back on the scale and note its weight as well.
- Place the pot back on high heat and reduce the concentrate by half.
- For example, if the pot weighs 30 ounces and there’s 40 ounces of concentrate, add those together to equal 70 ounces. Then reduce the concentrate until the total weight equals 50 ounces, meaning you’ve effectively reduced the concentrate by half.
- Alternatively, cook until the total volume is 2 ½ cups.
- Allow concentrate to cool, then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
- How to make a chai latte: Mix 1 part chai concentrate with 2 parts milk of choice (I prefer oat or soy milk). For a 12 oz cup, mix 4 oz of concentrate with 8 oz of milk. Enjoy warm or chilled!