In the United States, "chai" generally refers to a drink made with black tea leaves, several herbs and spices, and milk. This is a little different than the true definition of chai, which simply translates to "tea" in Hindi and can denote any number of tea drinks. More specifically, the idea of chai in the U.S. is closer to masala chai, which translates to "spiced tea." It's a rich drink that balances sweetness and spiciness, and it can be served hot, over ice, and even made with different spices and types of tea to change the flavor. Our list below covers a wide range of options to suit all kinds of taste buds.
From loose leaf to concentrate, here are the best chai teas.
The Chai Box All Chai’d Up
The Chai Box “All Chai’d Up” loose tea makes an inviting cup that is both tea-forward but still redolent with spices of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and clove with a touch of fennel sweetness and warm buff color using the stovetop method. You'll keep coming back for more. Bonus points: The instructions offer a stovetop and by-the-cup method for infuser-brewing. It's available in 2.5-ounce to 1-pound bags of loose tea.
Price at time of publish: $13
Form: Loose leaf | Size: 2.5, 4, 6, or 16 ounces | Origin: Kerala, India
Oregon Chai The Original Chai Tea Latte Concentrate
With this liquid chai, all you have to do is mix equal parts concentrate and milk for a quick and delicious drink. It's already sweetened with cane sugar syrup, vanilla extract, and honey, but you can always add more or less milk to adjust the flavor to your preference. Oregon Chai sells its chai tea concentrates in unsweetened and sugar-free versions as well, along with a number of flavored options like salted caramel, vanilla, and extra spicy. Cartons hold 32 ounces and are quite affordable—around the same price as a single chai latte from a coffee shop.
Price at time of publish: $4
Form: Concentrate | Size: 32 ounces | Origin: Not specified
Vahdam Loose Leaf Kashmiri Kahwa Green Tea Chai
In Kashmir, India, the chai known as Kashmiri Kahwa is green, and almonds join cinnamon in the cup for a brew that is not typically served with milk. Note: If you go looking for Kashmiri chai online, you are very likely to find pink “noon chai,” which is not Kashmiri Kahwa. This blend from Vahdam Teas brews a soothing, fragrant cup, spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, and almonds, made golden by the addition of saffron. It's available in a 3.5-ounce bag of loose tea.
Price at time of publish: $15
Form: Loose leaf | Size: 3.53 ounces | Origin: India
Kolkata Chai Co. DIY Chai Kit - Rose Masala Chai
The DIY rose chai kit from Kolkata Chai Co. will transport you to India. A common gripe people often have with chai is how the tea gets lost from excessive spicing, but not so in this loose chai—here the Assam tea blends with green cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, and cloves, as rose petals play sidekick. The aroma is subtly floral, and while unsweetened, there is a sugar cookie note to its fragrance.
It brews an exceptional cup with a toasty tan color. Bonus points: Made on the stovetop, the instructions nudge you to grate fresh ginger (not included) into the saucepan. New to chai? A private YouTube link with instructions on how to make the perfect cup is sent out with order details. It's available in a 120-gram packet of loose tea.
Price at time of publish: $20
Form: Loose leaf | Size: 4.2 ounces | Origin: Assam, India
Tipu's Chai Now Single Serve Masala Chai Latte Powder
Don’t pass up powdered chai. If you want a bolder cup closer to stovetop style (without the stove), Tipu’s Chai Now Sweetened Masala Chai is a quick stir-and-drink antidote. First off, the tawny color of the chai is just right. A cozy ginger, cinnamon, cardamom aroma invites from the start and sweet heat envelops your mouth and throat even as a kick of heat pulsates at the finish. The already sweetened blend isn’t too sweet. And, the biggest plus? You only need hot water to make any moment tea time. Bonus points: There's an unsweetened version, too. It comes in 10 single serving packets of powdered tea.
Price at time of publish: $13
Form: Powder | Size: Five single-serve packets | Origin: Chile
Blue Lotus Mint Masala Chai
If you’re new to mint in masala chai, you’re in for a treat. Peppy peppermint combines with ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon, and cloves for a refreshing aroma and festive flavor in Blue Lotus’ mint masala chai. The black tea is first brewed and then flash dried into tea powder. The ratio of 1 part hot water to 1 part milk yields a tea that pulsates with a rounded spice profile, deliciously unsweetened. It comes in a 3-ounce tin of powdered tea.
Price at time of publish: $17
Form: Powder | Size: 3 ounces or 1 pound | Origin: India
MEM Tea Masala Chai Pyramids
For by-the-cup brewing, MEM Tea Imports' masala chai brews a brisk black tea, boosted with ginger that yields enough heat without overpowering the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and the surprise of rooibos with a bouquet of autumn spices. It's available in a 20-count tin or 100-count bulk bag. Bonus points: It's also available in 2-ounce to 1-pound loose tea increments with the brand's stovetop method listed on the website.
Form: Loose leaf or bagged | Size: 20 or 100 tea bags; 2, 4, or 16 ounces of loose leaf | Origin: Assam, India
Keep in mind that you may be sacrificing some flavor by opting for bagged chai. Ayan Sanyal, founder of Kolkata Chai Co., told us: "Masala chai is best brewed with loose leaf tea and spices and simmered over a stove to develop the flavor. 'Chai tea' bags steeped in hot water and drank with a little milk won't develop the flavor nearly enough."
Rishi Tea & Botanicals Spicy Masala Chai Organic Tea Blend
Do you brace at the idea of spicy chai? Even though the spice list is long for this spicy masala chai blend from Rishi Tea, it’s harmonious in how the tea stands up to the usual suspects of masala chai: cardamom, ginger root, cinnamon, and cloves. The black pepper heat is pumped up by the addition of organic cayenne chili flakes and essential ginger oil. If masala chai is a hug, this zippy blend is more like a bear hug. It's available in a 1-pound bag of loose tea.
Price at time of publish: $40
Form: Loose leaf | Size: 1 pound | Origin: Thailand
One Stripe Chai Co. 32oz Unsweetened Chai Concentrate
While masala chai typically is assertive in its tea and spice, sometimes necessity means skipping the sweet. The majority of masala chai concentrates in the market are all pre-sweetened. Instead of going for pre-sweetened sugar-free versions, you can opt for One Stripe Chai Co.'s unsweetened masala chai concentrate. Its aroma yields a fresh citrusy spice bouquet for a cup of robust black tea with a sharp but not abrasive spice profile. It's available in a 32-ounce glass bottles or a bundle of two 8- or 16-ounce bottles.
Price at time of publish: $18
Form: Concentrate | Size: 8, 16, or 32 ounces | Origin: Assam, India
Best Green Tea
The Republic of Tea Bold Green Chai Certified Elephant Friendly Tea Bags
For the green tea fan who still wants the lively spices of a masala chai, consider the bold green chai from Republic of Tea. Made with organic Indian green tea mixed with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and clove, this tea is flavor-forward, and the spices heat up the throat and mouth. It’s a well-balanced blend, good on its own or with a splash of milk. It's available in a chai stackable trio of tins or a 36-bag pack.
Price at time of publish: $13
Form: Tea bags | Size: 36-count bag | Origin: Worldwide
MEM Tea Herbal Chai
Rooibos is a wonder herb. This spindly “red bush” leaf that originates in South Africa lends a tea flavor without the caffeine. MEM Tea Imports’ herbal chai is the caffeine-free masala chai that rose to the top with its well-rounded bouquet and flavor profile, warming with spices, but subtle honeyed notes of rooibos peeking through. It's available in 2-ounce to 1-pound sizes of loose tea.
Price at time of publish: $7 for 2 oz
Form: Loose leaf | Size: 2, 4, or 16 ounces | Origin: India
Samovar Tea Pumpkin Chai
Samovar Tea’s pumpkin chai is a PSL revelation in tea form that’s anything but basic. A bountiful butterscotch aroma sets high expectations for a decadent autumn blend that could make the seasoned espresso drinker switch. The pumpkin and spices mingle with the tea and might remind you a bit of a honey nut oat cereal—toasty, sweet, and spiced. One note here, you get to decide how sweet to take it—follow the instructions or sweeten to taste. It's available in a 1-pound bag of loose tea.
Price at time of publish: $55
Form: Loose leaf | Size: 1 pound | Origin: Not specified
Rishi Tea & Botanicals Chocolate Chai Organic Black Tea Blend
Chocolate and masala chai go hand in hand. Rishi Tea’s chocolate chai is a guilt-free indulgence that doesn’t require sweetener to be dessert. It steeps into a bold black tea, decadent on its own. But with milk, the creamy notes of the chocolate flavor of the organic cacao nibs and cocoa shells bring the spices through better at the back of the throat. Did we mention the aroma is akin to a chocolate croissant? It's available in 1/4-ounce to 1-pound increments of loose tea.
Price at time of publish: $51
Form: Loose leaf | Size: 4 ounces or 1 pound | Origin: Myanmar
The Chai Box Sweet Monsoon Loose Leaf Tea Blend
This category was added upon tasting the Chai Box Sweet Monsoon Loose Tea—it’s too good not to share. If you close your eyes, you might swear you’re in the tropics with its fruit and spice aroma and taste. Cinnamon, mango, and coconut mingle with the spices as the tea holds its own. This brewed an excellent cup of tea—without milk. Adding milk highlights the smooth mellow aspects of the tea as the fruit and spice still come forward. It's available in 2.5-ounce up to 1-pound bags of loose tea.
Price at time of publish: $13
Form: Loose leaf | Size: 2.5, 6, 16 ounces | Origin: Kerala, India
Best on Ice
Samovar Tea Organic Masala Chai
The stovetop method for Samovar loose organic masala chai tastes even better the next day chilled in the refrigerator. If you’re looking to skip café lines but have a solid cuppa sweetened-as-you-like-it milky spiced iced chai, this is it.
Price at time of publish: $19
Form: Loose leaf | Size: 4 ounces or 1 pound | Origin: Not specified
If you're looking to brew chai tea, we recommend The Chai Box's All Chai'd Up as the best all-around option. It blends sweet spices with full-bodied black tea for a delicious cup every time. As an alternative, Oregon Chai's Original Concentrate is our favorite pick for a liquid chai; all you have to do is mix it with milk.
What to Look for in Chai
Chai is typically made with black tea, particularly Assam or Darjeeling, but Kashmiri chai is a popular alternative that uses green tea leaves instead. It's often referred to as "pink tea" because of its bright pink color. While the creamy texture is similar to masala chai made with black tea, Kashmiri chai is more delicate in flavor, so it may appeal to those who prefer lighter teas.
That said, Ayan Sanyal, the founder of Kolkata Chai Co., says chai made with green tea is a little more fickle and can tend to taste more bitter. "I love matcha and green tea," he told us, "but as a chai connoisseur, I can't recommend it for chai. Green tea is processed differently from black tea—it's the same leaf and it comes from the same plant, but green tea is usually boiled instead of roasted after the fermentation process. This vastly changes the color and flavor profile of green tea. Green tea is a little more bitter and contains less tannins than black tea. In my opinion, the flavor of green tea doesn't 'play' with our chai spice as well as black tea does."
The best blend of chai is highly subjective. Some recipes are simple with just ginger and cardamom, while others are more unique and contain anything from mint leaves to lemon juice to chili flakes. No matter how small the ingredient, however, there can be big differences in taste. Sometimes the tea taste is obliterated by a punch of spice or one spice dominates all the others. And it’s not just the flavor profile either that needs balance, but the aroma, too. When looking for chai, keep in mind the flavors you like, dislike, or curious in trying.
When it comes to chai, you have many options as far as how it's packaged. Our list includes everything from stovetop tea to CTC, whole leaves, concentrates, and powders. The tea cut called CTC (cut-tear-curl), also known as Mamri tea, comes from pellets that boil with milk, sugar, and spices. CTC tea brews in boiling water on the stovetop for a robust cup of black tea. Your time constraints and personal preference will ultimately dictate the best brewing method and variety for you.
What is chai tea?
"Chai" is Hindi for "tea," so "chai tea" literally means "tea tea." What many of us in the United States and abroad think of as chai is actually masala chai, Hindi for "spiced tea." Chai as we know it was introduced in India by British colonialists, but Indians made it their own. It is now a much-beloved drink and daily staple.
You can find chai in bags or loose with Assam whole leaf black tea or smaller cuts of tea leaves, or other teas used instead to impart their flavor and character. It’s hard to pinpoint a definitive masala chai as some families and tea companies have their own proprietary spice blends, giving it their particular twist. Often though, you will find masala chai includes cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and black pepper. The beauty of blending is all in the decisions: Are the spices whole? Are they ground? Do the instructions indicate scraping in fresh ginger to stir into the tea as it steeps? You might find star anise swept into the spice mix or even orange zest, vanilla, rose, or mint.
How long does chai tea last?
To get more insight on the shelf life of chai tea, we spoke with Ayan Sanyal, the founder of Kolkata Chai Co. He told us that chai never truly goes bad because it's a dry tea and spice product, which is true of other loose leaf teas too, but that chai can go stale over time. How long until that happens? Well, the length of freshness varies and can even depend on personal preference, but Sanyal told us: "I can't speak for other chai teas, but our chai comes in a resealable bag and stays fresh for 12 months. We freshly mill our spices right before packing so it's as fresh as possible and full of flavor."
Does chai tea have caffeine?
What we think of as chai is masala chai, which is typically a blend of highly caffeinated black tea and spices. Kashmiri-style Kahwa chai is made with lightly caffeinated green tea and cardamom with almonds. For a caffeine-free option, a good pick would be a rooibos masala chai, as this “red tea” herb that originates in South Africa tastes the most like black tea but without the caffeine.
How do I make chai?
This depends. A good rule of thumb is to follow the instructions on your container of masala chai, since tea blenders precisely portion out the spices and tea for the amount of water, milk, and steeping time they recommend.
Quickly steep loose or bagged masala chai without a stovetop, using this quick method: For masala chai made with black tea: steep 1 teaspoon of loose tea or 1 tea bag in 1 cup of near-boiling water for 4 minutes. Strain out the loose tea or discard the teabag. Then sweeten to taste if desired and stir in milk. For green tea, steep 1 teaspoon of green masala chai in 1 cup of water that is around 170 degrees Fahrenheit (cooler than black tea so the tea doesn’t over-extract) for 3 minutes. Strain out the loose tea or discard the teabag. Sweeten to taste and stir in milk.
If you have access to a stovetop, make masala chai in a saucepan. Here’s a simple ratio to remember: 1:1:1 on water, milk, and loose masala chai. You can add more tea if you prefer and as you perfect your own house chai. Bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon masala chai (and if you have some on-hand, stir in fresh ginger using a microplane—this adds a kick of spicy heat, so use less or more as desired). Boil for 3 minutes. Pour in the milk. Bring to a boil once more and then turn off the heat. Strain out the loose tea and then sweeten it to taste.
Making an iced chai? Bring the strained sweetened tea (using either the quick steeping or stovetop method) to room temperature before adding ice cubes—if you add ice while it’s still hot, they will melt and dilute your chai. Or, if you happen to make a double batch of chai, chill part of it, once at room temperature overnight, no ice needed.
"Making chai at home is a ritualistic and personal process. The beautiful thing is that you get to customize it and make it yours. The most common mistake is when people make their chai either too strong or too weak. But both can be easily remedied by adding more milk if its too strong and boiling for two to three minutes more if it's too weak." — Ayan Sanyal, Founder of Kolkata Chai Co.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
The Spruce Eats writer Annelies Zijderveld has worked in the tea industry for over a decade, traveling across the United States, where she has poured tea at food and wine festivals and connected with tea drinkers at tradeshows and beyond. During that time, she cupped a dizzying array of teas and believes there is a tea out there for every person. She wrote a cookbook about cooking with tea, inspired by the ease chefs she encountered brought to tea as an ingredient, thinking home cooks would love getting in on that idea, too. She cupped 49 masala chai blends to bring you the recommendations on this list. Keeping with the theme of this guide, it might be fun to know she also has a cat named Chai.
This piece was edited by Derek Rose, the coffee and tea expert for The Spruce Eats. He tests a variety of products and interviews field experts for their insight. Derek received a BA from Marist College and an MFA from Columbia University. He has written for The Spruce Eats since 2019.
Ayan Sanyal, the founder of Kolkata Chai Co., was interviewed for this piece. Established in 2018, Kolkata Chai Co. sells tea, teaware, and accessories online and also has a café in New York City. The brand's Rose Masala Chai Mix appears on the list above.
United States Department of Agriculture. The organic seal.