Monday, September 13, 2010

How to: Chai Latte

During college, I made my money as a coffee house barista. Half the time I worked at an independent store, and the other half I worked at the Seattle's Best in the local Border's bookstore. Best. Job. Ever.

I didn't like the retail side of things, but I genuinely enjoyed making people their drinks. Even during the holiday times, I liked it.

Anyway, I know how to make just about any "coffee house"-type drink, so I thought I might share. We writers love our java (et al), right?

You may wonder what my drink of choice is, after being exposed to every concoction under the sun?

It's today's feature:

The Chai Latte 

Chai is black tea brewed with a variety of spices. As its main ingredient is black tea, most chai lattes that you order are going to have a degree of caffeination--about the same as an English Breakfast, I guess.

Most coffee houses offer either spiced chai or vanilla chai. I prefer the spiced variety, but vanilla will do in a pinch.

The biggest difference among coffee houses is the type of chai concentrate used, being either powder or liquid.  Again, my preference is liquid, but some powdered chais can be very good.

For example, the chai concentrate we used at Seattle's Best was Tazo.
At Java City, we used a thicker concentrate that came with a pump, but I forget what the brand was.

I think that chai lattes made with the powder have a creamier texture, but the liquid gives it a bit more of a kick, and I love a spicy chai.

Making your own chai lattes is simple--pretty much the easiest thing to recreate at home.

You can use whatever kind of milk you prefer, but in my "professional" opinion, soy milk makes the best chai lattes. If you're a fan of foam, order soy at the coffee house--soy milk is the easiest to get a good foam out of, followed by skim, and then whole milk. I love foam on my chai, so I always get soy (I also have a theory that the soy milk complements the slight bitterness in a chai, but that's just me.)

The sad fact is that home espresso machines just can't compare the industrial kind. The steam wand is a poor facsimile of the raging beast coffee houses have, so just accept that now.

If you can live without the foam (sadness), I'd recommend simply microwaving your milk in 30-second increments to ensure no scorching. Once it's reached the proper temperature (140 degrees is coffee house standard), simply mix with your chai concentrate and you're good to go.

What's the best mix ratio of milk/chai? When I used to make my own drinks at Seattle's Best, using a 12-oz cup, I would pour approximately 8 oz of chai to 4 oz of milk. However, that's because I like mine spicy. You'd definitely be safe going with a simple 50:50.

For the cold variety, you can either forgo ice and used refrigerated concentrate and milk, or fill your glass with ice cubes and go to town.

Note: if you use the Tazo concentrate, be sure to refrigerate after opening

Okay. So I realize this was pretty long and rambly, but I hope it was informative. 

Now, here's the question: any requests? If it appears on a coffee house menu, 99% chance that I know how to make it, and can give you a good idea of how to recreate at home. 

Vanilla latte? Caramel macchiato? Extra-dry cappuccino? Americano? 


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Gor a recipe for smoothies? Sorry, I am not a coffee drinker, but I do like the fruit smoothies at Starbucks.

Renae said...

Great recipe! I would love to know how to make a Caramel macchiato...I live on those things!

Natascha said...

Mmmm. You're making me hungry and thirsty at the same time. I'll have to try this out!

Talli Roland said...

Oh, that looks so good! I'll have to make it for my husband - he loves chai. Thanks! :) Happy Monday!

Jules said...

Oh, it looks like a dessert :) My favorite is just straight up coffee, cream please and a little honey.

Nice recipe though :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Hannah said...

I swear we were separated at birth a few years apart! I was a barista for 2 and a half years. I could whip up pretty much anything too!! I did love making drinks. People were just a little annoying after a while and I don't like confined spaces. Weird, since I work in a cubical but I can walk around whenever I want.

I love my chai with soy. Delish! I don't know why but it seems to me the soy brings out the flavor more than milk. I loved when people order a "chai tea" and I would answer with my nose in the air, "chai means tea, so you want a chai?" Then I would snort and make their drink in a huff. What next?! EXpresso?!!

Unknown said...

Oh, thank you for this. Yummy!



YUM! I really love the pumpkin spice latte! It is amazing!

Fun post!

Meredith said...

Yay! I'm so going to try to make this now! Hmm, other recipes I need? Pumpkin spice lattes are my favorite. Or mochas!

Melanie said...

Caramel macchiatos and mochas are my absolute favorites. However, I can't wait until fall kicks in (us Georgia girls have got to wait until practically November for this!) and Pumpkin Spices make their annual appearance!

Kimberly Franklin said...

MMMM... that sounds delicious. I might even have to try that one out. I love the way Chai Lattes smell. Especially the vanilla ones!

Sarah Ahiers said...

i love you chai latte. I love you so damn much.
For reals, too. i don't drink coffee, but i will drink chai lattes, warm or iced

Jamie Gibbs said...

I've never wanted to experiment with caffeine as much as I do right now. Thanks Summer :D

I'm fancying a caramel macchiato, that sounds awesome. I've become addicted to coffee house cappucino's at the University library, so that would be a nice change :)

Unknown said...

Can I get the liquid concentrate in the grocery store? What about that tea place in the Mall of GA. Any good recs for what to buy from there? So excited to try this!!!

And if I fail, I'm having you over to show me where I went wrong!

((hugs)) Nicole

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Awesome! Feel free to do coffee recipes anytime you want! :-)

Lindsay said...

Sounds yummy. I may swap my normal latte for a chai one next time I go to Starbucks. :)

The Words Crafter said...

I am a complete newb when it comes to making coffee. I actually like regular coffee, black. Got any tips for that?

Also, this recipe sounds so delish, is it really that simple? Microwave the soy and add the chai?

As for a request...Pumpkin. Spice. Latte........*rolling eyes and nearly fainting* could you? would you? pleasepleaseplease?!!!!!

Thank you for sharing your expertise!

JB said...

Sounds Delish! I have no patience for such stuff at home, though you did make it look easy enough. The hard part for me is finding the ingredients. I just brew coffee and use various creamers for flavoring and call it good. My favorite artists date is to go to a coffee shop for something yummy as I write. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

I love hot Chai Tea, but haven't tried a latte - didn't quite know how it would taste with milk and Chai mixed. Now I'm craving one... I'll have to find some of the Chai concentrate :)

DL Hammons said...

A Caramel Macchiato please, with an extra shot of caramel and hold the whip cream. :)

demery said...

Peppermint hot chocolate... powder? syrup? If syrup - which kind is best? For the peppermint - crushed up starlights? Or is there a liquid available to the masses?

You've piqued my interest in chai now - will try soon!

Bess Weatherby said...

I did the exact same thing in college. And REALLY enjoyed it. I dream of having a nice espresso machine someday, but I am scared they won't compare to the industry ones :(

Glad to hear you like the liquid better as well. It was a subject of huge debate at my coffee cart. But Chai must be spicy, in my opinion :)

Old Kitty said...

Oooh oooh!! Me me!! *raising hand up in the air and waving like mad*!!!!

Extra dry cappuccino please!!! Really extra grande/massimo/a big one.

Thank you!!!!

I was introduced to chai in powder form just add water type recently (I can't remember the brand name, just that it was mightily pricey for powdered tea or so I thought) and it turned out to be luuuurrrvly!!!

Take care

Jessica said...

I know this is an old post, but how do you use a powdered concentrate? Just reconstitute with the milk? Anything else? Haha :) I'm a newb