10 Authentic South Asian-Founded Chais to Swap For Your Morning Starbucks
If you're a tea-lover, chances are you've experimented with chai. Whether you're a purist with a love for spicy ginger and sweet cardamom, or prefer a blend of honey and hot milk, there's more to the traditional Indian tea than those chai lattes you've been picking up at your local coffee shop.
Thousands of years ago, chai was made for Indian royalty as a healing drink made of a blend of Ayurvedic herbs containing medicinal properties. For example, ginger and black pepper aid with digestion while cardamom is a natural mood booster. The added (delicious) element of black tea, milk, and sugar only came later.
Whether you've dabbled in the occasional dirty chai latte or consider chai your staple morning beverage (hear, hear!), the following varieties of chai are the most traditional you can get. Each pays homage to the South Asian roots of Ayurveda with a variety of blends, from rose petal-infused bags for luminous skin to pre-made concentrates you'll consider a new pantry staple. Buying these means your mornings will be getting a serious glow-up, yes, but it also means supporting small, South Asian-founded businesses with ancestors who have been sipping on chai for centuries.
The Chai Box
Each and every one of Monica Sunny's mouthwatering blends has a story behind it. Her recipes are inspired by everything important in her life from her mom's Punjabi kitchen to a blend she made with her son. Her Chai Concentrate ($12), a blend of pre-brewed chai with a dash of raw sugar, has officially become a sweet treat staple in my fridge. I love combining it with hot, frothy milk in the colder months or simply poured over ice and oat milk on a hot day.
Co-founders Esha Chhabra and Smita Satiani built Alaya upon the values of the slow-moving West Indian community of Darjeeling, where each and every one of their herbs and leaves are grown with love using regenerative, organic agriculture. If you want the most traditional blend possible from the literal roots of India itself, Alaya's Assam Black Tea With Ginger ($14) is a must-try.
A beauty brand at its core, Ranavat's Illuminate Tea ($25) is infused with actual rose petals — another ingredient beloved by Indian royalty for centuries. Founder Michelle Ranavat is all about honoring the traditions of India's royalty, which is why the leaf foundation of it is Darjeeling (the champagne of teas) rather than black.
The 21st century twist on traditional chai, Sashee Chandran's Chai Spice Tea Drops ($14) are what every tea-lover needs on the go. Simply pour some hot water over the blend of black tea, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, and sugar and the herbs dissolve in to a sweet treat. It's a great staple item for long road trips or plane rides, too.
Founder Snigdha Manchanda has been collecting rare and exotic teas from all over the world since childhood, so it's no wonder he went on to attend a professional tea school in Sri Lanka working under some of the most incredible tea masters in the world. Tea Trunk is his brainchild, and his Masala Chai ($10) blend is exactly the kind of thing you'll want to brew to impress the friends you host for brunch.
For the coffee-lover who might be tea-curious, Tipu's Espresso Chai Latte Packets ($9) are a playful blend of espresso with black tea, ginger, and other organic spices. It already comes with sugar and milk powder blended in, so this is another good one to keep stashed in your purse or work desk for those emergency caffeine cravings.
When Yogi Bhajan, also known as Harbhajan Singh Khalsa, first brought Kundalini Yoga to the Western world, he ended every class by serving a homemade brew of what he called "yogi tea" to his students. The Honey Chai Turmeric Vitality ($16) won't come with a yoga class, but it is infused with a sweet honey taste and calming turmeric. Plus, it's made without caffeine, so this one's perfect if you're sensitive to caffeine or are just craving the taste before bedtime.