Evaluate Your Chai Offerings

Blog > Coffee Shop & Restaurant Operations > Marketing, Teas & Chai

It might not feel like fall just yet, but it’s almost the perfect season for sitting in a coffee shop, reading a good book and slowly sipping a steaming, spicy cup of chai.

Chai’s history in India dates back thousands of years. It is so much a part of life there that many families have a special recipe that has been passed down through generations. Homemade recipes use a blend, or masala, of spices that are freshly ground and then steeped with black tea. The most common spices used in the masala are cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorn and ginger—but usually a simple mixture of one or two of these spices. The tea and masala mixture is then strained, combined with milk and sweetened with sugar or honey.

In the U.S., chai refers to a latte-style drink made with black tea, several spices, milk and a sweetener. It tends to be much sweeter than the authentic Indian version. It’s up to you whether you want to offer your customers a lighter, less-sweet chai, or a more Americanized dessert-like version.

Find perfect teas for your operation—and more.

Two things are important when choosing a chai product to serve at your coffee shop or restaurant:

1. Method of preparation. Because chai is labor intensive to make from scratch, liquid concentrates or powders are almost always used in well trafficked coffee shops.

 - Liquid concentrate: There are two types of liquid concentrate chai, a 1:1 or a 7-9:1. A 1:1 uses equal parts of milk and chai. The concentrate needs to be refrigerated and steamed with the milk. The 7-9:1 concentrates are becoming increasingly popular because they are shelf stable (no need to go to the fridge every time you want to make a chai), easy to measure, don't need to be steamed with the milk and cost less per serving.

- Powdered chai: These have the lowest cost per serving. They’re also convenient for locations that don't have access to milk because they can be made with hot water—although milk still gives the drink a richer taste. Powders are also great in blended drinks. If you decide to use a powder, choose one that has a smooth texture and be sure to mix it well. Don’t fear the powdered varieties—there are plenty of baristas who prefer them!

2. Flavor profile. Whether you go simple and not-so-sweet, with a nod to chai’s Indian roots, or with a sweeter, American-style chai, it should have balanced flavors and a pleasant aftertaste. Blind taste test several chais with your staff to find a favorite.

Will chai damage my steam wand?

No sooner than milk will. Milk is as bad or worse than anything else you might steam with your wand. It contains sugars, fats and proteins, and is potentially hazardous when left at room temperature for too long.

If you’re training your baristas to keep steam wands clean, you’ll have nothing to worry about. Purge before steaming, wipe the wand immediately after steaming, and purge again after. Soak the tip in hot water periodically throughout the day to remove any buildup inside the tip.

What if my chai becomes so popular that I can’t keep up?

That’s a great problem to have—and not a hard one to solve. You’ve got a few options:

  • Consider purchasing a standalone milk steamer for making chai.
  • Keep the chai concentrate warm on an induction burner—or at least use a shelf-stable concentrate that can sit on the counter at room temperature—and then add it to the milk before steaming.
  • Keep an airpot of chai on the ready, so you can dispense the warm chai into the steam pitcher, then add the milk.

Contact us for samples of our chai products, or if you have any questions about which type of chai might be right for your operation.

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