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I want to be able to make chai latte at home, but I don't have an espresso machine, and I don't really know if it is worth buying one just for an occasional drink.
Is there a way to froth the milk without an espresso? Is there any other way people know to make chai latte?

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Just as a side comment.. Although Chai-Latte is synonymous with frothy spiced tea in the US, the word 'Chai' just means normal tea (generally served with milk) in India. The spices are not that common.. –  notthetup May 13 '11 at 13:44
    
@ntt: Actually I knew that. According to my boss "Chai" is also the word for tea in Russian. (I work in a multi lingual office) –  Zachary K May 13 '11 at 14:06
    
I believe it's shared by many languages in that region, from Russian, to Turkish (Çai), to Chinese (Cha).. Funny how words move in the world.. :) –  notthetup May 15 '11 at 6:17
    
According to Wikipedia, the word for tea in many languages is based on either of two pronunciations of the Chinese word 茶 ( or chá). It's also interesting to note that “consumption of tea within India remained low until an aggressive promotional campaign by the (British-owned) Indian Tea Association in the early 20th century, which encouraged factories, mines, and textile mills to provide tea breaks for their workers.” See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chai#History –  Rinzwind May 15 '11 at 17:13

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Frothed milk is not essential to Masala Chai, it's normally made with plain milk; the frothed-milk version is mostly a Western variation. But I assume you like it with that little extra. You might try using a milk frother, you can get them much cheaper than the deluxe model I've linked to here. If you're very particular about your frothed milk though, it seems from some quite detailed instructions I found, that a proper milk steaming attachment as found on espresso machines is the way to go. The author of the instructions states that “With a little care, you can create steamed milk that is velvety smooth like the texture of wet shaving cream. The bubbles will be so small that you can barely see them! This is the way it’s supposed to be, because this way, it will blend with the espresso, creating a harmony of the flavors instead of a dry, tasteless cap floating on top.” The same author provides instructions on how to make Masala Chai with or without frothed milk:

In its most basic form, chai is black tea that is brewed strong with a combination of spices and is diluted with milk and sugar.

The spices vary from recipe to recipe, but usually consist of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pepper and ginger. Chai tea is traditionally consumed hot and sweet. The sweetness is needed to bring out the full flavors of the spices.

How to Make Chai

Here is a simple recipe to make chai yourself at home. This is what you will need:

[...]

Chai Latte

I just love a good chai latte! A chai latte is just the spiced tea mixed with milk that’s steamed from an espresso machine. I love the soft foamy texture the steamed milk adds to the chai.

You can get these at coffee houses, or if you can make them yourself if you have an espresso machine. I have detailed instructions on steaming (or frothing) milk in the coffee section of this site.

You can follow the above directions just don’t add the milk. This makes a strong tea. Then add the steamed milk straight from the espresso machine.

Practice to make velvety steamed milk and use fresh ingredients. This will insure that you make the perfect chai tea latte.

Source: http://www.2basnob.com/chai-tea.html

You may also want to take a look at the page titled “Milk Frother Tips” on coffee-makers-cafe.com, which gives a comparison between different methods of frothing milk. But note that that page also states you will get the best results with an espresso machine's steam wand:

The only way to produce true microfoam is with a good quality steam wand that has enough pressure to swirl the milk and the ability to heat the milk to the correct temperature. You won't get microfoam with a frother. Microfoam is like a thick milk... like runny-yoghurt in consistency. If you swirl it around in the jug it has a shiny, acrylic-like appearance.

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Thanks, a $10 gadget is a lot easier to justify than a $100 espresso machine that will take up a chunk of counter space –  Zachary K May 10 '11 at 16:27
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+1; an excellent answer. You mention that frothed milk is unnecessary for masala chai. I'd just like to add that the traditional drink was made by simply heating milk and water with tea and spices, and this method is still the norm today in India and many other places. The switch to steamed or frothed milk is (I believe) mostly a Western modification. (I'm not trying to suggest one way is better than the other, mind you.) –  Jefromi May 10 '11 at 23:36
    
@Jefromi: Your comment made me realize that it sounds like I meant you can use plain milk as a substitute, while frothed milk is the norm. I'll edit it to make clear the version with frothed milk is mostly a Western variation. Thanks! –  Rinzwind May 11 '11 at 10:35

You don't need anything fancy to make chai. My home made chai latte is pretty simple:

  1. boil water (as you would for ANY tea)
  2. steep the chai tea bag
    -OR-
    steep normal tea + some spices (some combination of: cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, allspice, star anise, cloves, mace or nutmeg, fennel. There are many recipes on the web if you google for "chai spices mix")
  3. warm milk in a sauce pan, or microwave
  4. after tea is steeped, remove bag, add milk, enjoy.

A great alteration in the summer is to skip warming the milk, and pour it ice cold into the super strong tea, then add some ice cubes.

Many of the comercial places like *$ use the steam tube on their espresso machine just to heat the pre-made mix they keep in the fridge... on more than one occasion when I've been getting a hot chai latte during peak hours, the steam tube on the espresso machine was busy frothing milk and they've used the microwave instead.

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My brother does something similar, but he actually makes a large batch of quite strong tea/spice blend (approx 1qt or 1L), then chills it down, so he just needs to warm it and the milk up together, rather than brewing the tea each time. –  Joe May 10 '11 at 21:38
    
there's something to be said for the efficiency of that @joe, but I love the smell of the brewing tea. –  cabbey May 10 '11 at 23:17

For as much as I enjoy various espresso drinks, I must offer up that simply microwaving your milk and pseudo scalding it will bring out a lot of the richness in it. The microwaving will also change the texture of the milk somewhat. You might consider nuking a few shots of milk at different power levels and times to see what might work best for Chai Latte in particular.

There's also vitamin/protein fortified Bolthouse pre-packaged Chai Latte; it's entirely unauthentic and tastes more like a candy cane than tea, but it sure is tasty nonetheless.

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Will try the microwave idea, as for the bolthouse I don't think they sell it here (israel) But there are some good Chai teas in a tea bag which I drink a lot of –  Zachary K May 10 '11 at 16:37

The best chai tea recipe: 750ml cold water 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon cinnomon 4 cardomom pods 3 teabags

Bring water and spices to the boil and leave to simmer for 10 minutes Then add milk and as much sugar as you want! Full fat milk is the best but you can use half fat aswell!

This makes enough for 4 mugs and i just take the teabags out and put the rest in the fridge to heat up for later!! it tastes EXACTLY like the chai lattes from starbucks which i was addicted to until i found this recipe!

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Thanks, I'll try this. –  Zachary K May 11 '11 at 11:26

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