I've heard many people say that one of the main reason they don’t drink chai is b’coz it is way too sweet. This is true if the only chai you’ve had is at cafes. Most cafes use a chai concentrate as a base to make their chai or chai latte - which is always loaded with sugar. I looked for unsweetened chai mixes, but didn’t come across any. I started to wonder why that was the case. There could be several reasons; here are the most likely ones:
1. Adding sugar was a way to make this traditional Indian drink palatable to the Americans. After all, the Big Food Industry uses sugar (and consequently America’s addiction to sugar) to make huge profits.
2. The Americans who created the recipes based it on their experience in India – where they were treated to really sweet chai. Indians love sugar too and one way to show hospitality is to generously use sugar.
3. All chai concentrate have citric acid – it’s a “natural” preservative that helps extend the shelf life to 11 months or more. Sugar helps in masking the sour taste of the citric acid.
When I started The Chai Cart, my mission was to provide “wholesome goodness of chai“– like the kind I made at home. To be true to this mission I made a deliberate decision to NOT add any preservative (even if it meant limiting shelf life to 3 months and restricting distribution within the Bay Area) or sugar. I wanted customers to have the choice – of how much sugar to add and even the type of sweetener (honey, stevia, splenda, etc).
Every morning I make a 12 oz cup of chai with 1 tsp of sugar and 4oz of 2% milk. This cup of chai has 70 calories and 8 grams of sugar. A non-fat chai latte at Starbucks has approximately 170 calories and 34 grams of sugar
If you start your day with a cup of chai , make sure it’s the right start.