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The Best Chai: Our Taste Test Results

First Posted: 11/17/2011 9:26 am   Updated: 08/31/2012 10:48 am



Kitchen Daily's latest taste test not only determined the best brand of chai tea bags, but it also triggered some self-realization within our edit team: We're not sure if we actually like chai.

Let's explain this. Most Americans have become accustomed to the coffee-chain breed of chai lattes, which actually taste heavier of sugar and cream than of authentic Indian chai spices. (What are those spices, you ask? They typically consist of cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, fennel, cloves and peppercorns.) We've fallen in love with the creamy combination of spice, sugar and fat.

If you need proof of just how much sugar and cream those contain, here it is. A 16-ounce version of the Starbucks Tazo Chai Tea Latte contains 4.5 grams of fat (thanks to 2% milk) and 42 grams of sugar.

Even worse, a 14-ounce Vanilla Chai from Dunkin Donuts contains 8 grams of fat and 45 grams of sugar -- yow!

So what happened when our taste testers did a blind taste test using straight-up water and chai tea bags? (Not to be confused with sugary chai drink mixes!) We heard a lot of this: "I don't think I like chai as much as I thought!" The actual tea itself tastes like -- well, spicy water. So if you're a big tea drinker (particularly of herbal teas), you'll likely enjoy a glass of straight-up chai. But if you're not, you might need to do a little tweaking.

The good news is, we found some brands that are enjoyable on their own, without cream or sugar. And the better news? With a little added fat and sweetness, a lot of these teas can be jazzed up into a delicious latte. The warm chai spices are the perfect indulgence on a cold day.

Check out the top 10 performers below! (And yes, we did taste two varieties from Twinings. But surprisingly, they didn't make the cut.)

As always, none of the brands included in this taste test are involving or sponsoring this test.

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  • #1: Trader Joe's Organic Spiced Rooibos Ruby Red Chai

    <b>Comments:</b> "Pleasant and, unlike others, drinkable without cream or sugar." "Smells like cider and has a rather neutral flavor." "Gives a nice soothing aroma, and has just the right spice combo." <a href="http://www.traderjoes.com" target="_blank">traderjoes.com</a>

  • #2: Zhena's Gypsy Tea: Fire Light Chai (Herbal Red Tea)

    <b>Comments:</b> "Lovely." "Apple-y." "Like apple pie! Good taste." "Very light and has a faint sweetness." "Very subtle." <a href="http://www.gypsytea.com/" target="_blank">gypsytea.com</a>

  • #3: Celestial Seasonings Chai Tea

    <b>Comments:</b> "Seems to have the right balance of spices. With a little milk and sugar, it would be perfect." "Apple cidery aroma; great winter comfort chai." "I really enjoy the aroma of this tea. The taste is not very present, maybe a little bitter on the finish. Milk would do well here." "Started out lovely and then fell flat." "Aromatic and spicy without being too perfume-y." <a href="http://www.celestialseasonings.com/" target="_blank">celestialseasonings.com</a>

  • #4: Bigelow Vanilla Chai

    <b>Comments:</b> "The vanilla in here gives the effect of being a latte." "Buttery?" "There's a lot of vanilla in this, and it's sweet for not having any sugar." "Almost candy-like taste -- is this butterscotch?" <a href="http://www.bigelowtea.com/" target="_blank">bigelowtea.com</a>

  • #5: Yogi Chai Rooibos

    <b>Comments:</b> "Mild but still nice and spicy." "Spicy." "Very cardamom-y." "Nice orange notes." "Slightly pine-y." <a href="http://www.yogiproducts.com/" target="_blank">yogiproducts.com</a>

  • #6: Stash Chai Spice Black Tea

    <b>Comments:</b> "Heavy on cloves." "A lot like potpourri." "A sweet aroma that doesn't match the flavor." "Smells a bit like honey. Refreshing." <a href="http://www.stashtea.com/" target="_blank">stashtea.com</a>

  • #7: Numi Organic Golden Chai

    <b>Comments:</b> "Almost as mild as green tea." "Tastes a bit floral." "I can't taste much in this one." "Minty -- not quite chai, but nice." <a href="http://www.numitea.com/" target=_"blank">numitea.com</a>

  • #8: Tazo Organic Chai

    <b>Comments:</b> "Incredibly strong and bitter." "Good amount of spice." "Nice aroma, but a little bit astringent." "Very one-dimensional and a little bitter." <a href="http://www.tazo.com" target="_blank">tazo.com</a>

  • #9: Numi Organic Rooibos Chai

    <b>Comments:</b> "Herbal in a powerfully medicinal way." "Very clove-y." "Like liquid cloves." "This has a faux sweet flavor." "Tastes like Christmas -- or potpourri." "Hints of apple cider and cinnamon." <a href="http://www.numitea.com/" target="_blank">numitea.com</a>

  • #10: Bigelow Spiced Chai Tea

    <b>Comments:</b> "Notes of vanilla and warm cinnamon." "Slightly buttery?" "The chai flavor is not very strong." "Smells like vanilla and has notes of honey." <a href="http://www.bigelowtea.com/" target="_blank">bigelowtea.com</a>

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Filed by Kristen Aiken  |