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Sticky Chai: Everything you need to know

Updated: Mar 11

In the ever-evolving tea scene, one particular blend has been steadily gaining popularity for its unique blend of flavours and aromatic charm – sticky chai.


If you're curious about this intriguing beverage and want to explore its origins, preparation, and what makes it stand out from traditional masala chai (spiced tea), you've come to the right place.


Table of Contents:


1. What is Sticky Chai?


Sticky chai, often referred to as "wet chai" is a distinct variation of traditional chai which originates from Indian tea culture. The term "sticky", is used to signal that the spices and tea are combined with a sweetener – typically honey or agave syrup – creating a sticky chai mix.


A glass container with sticky chai inside it.

This take on the traditionally dry blend of spices and tea, while it’s exact origins are hard to unearth, had its birth in Australia. Being one of the leading countries for food and drink development, it is no surprise that this ingenious method of adding natural sweetener to chai was created there.


With the addition of honey to this century old beverage, it has the added benefit of allowing the person making the blend to add fresh ingredients such as grated ginger, turmeric or even fresh vanilla without the inevitable spoiling of the blend due this natural preservative. It really is ingenious!!


2. What makes up a Sticky Chai?


common spices used in Sticky chai


  • Cinnamon

  • Cloves

  • Black Pepper Corns

  • Fennel

  • Nutmeg

  • Star Anise

  • Allspice


The unique twist lies in the preparation method, where the spices are ground into their desired coarseness, creating an intense and aromatic spice blend that forms the bold character of sticky chai.


A plate with chai spices beside a mug of chai.

Common Teas used in Sticky ChaI


  • Black Tea

  • Green Tea

  • Yerba Mate

  • Rooibos

The spice mix is then added to the chosen tea (caffeine levels vary depending on the tea used). Due to chai containing so many spices, a strong and bold tea is needed to stand up to the contrasting flavours. Assam tea, known for its malty flavour profile, is often the preferred tea in chai production but other teas are also used. A strong Kenyan or Ceylon tea can also be used when making chai. As long as it is a strong tea, it will work!


Now onto what really makes Sticky chai what it is known and loved for, the stickiness!

 

common “sticky” sweeteners used in sticky chai


  • Honey

  • Agave Syrup

  • Maple Syrup (if you're feeling really adventurous)


Honey being poured from a jar.

 

When adding honey, agave or any other syrup sweetener, the versatility of the chai opens up considerably. These natural sweeteners allow for a beautiful blend to be created that stands out amongst the non-sticky alternatives. Without sweeteners like honey or agave, you are really only left with sugar and it doesn’t act as a natural preservative.


Other ingredients can be added depending on the individual’s preference and we have provided you with a really easy recipe in Step 3: The Art of Brewing Sticky Chai to get you started with some tips and hints. 


3. how to make Sticky Chai


Creating the perfect cup of sticky chai is an art form in itself. From choosing the right tea base to mastering your own spice-to-sweetener ratio, an unbalanced blend can taste, well, interesting...


Below is a recipe card we use when doing presentations to make for yourself a really easy to brew sticky chai.


A recipe card to make sticky chai.

Step 1: Find yourself some high-quality spices from your local store.


  • A great tip is to check out your nearest Asian supermarket as they often sell the necessary spices at a fraction of the cost you would find them in a larger supermarket chain.


Step 2: Break up your cinnamon sticks once or twice.


Step 3: Coarsely grind your cloves and black pepper corn using a pestle and mortar (if you don’t have a pestle and mortar, you can use a blender or simply just add them whole.)


Step 4: Next, you are going to place all of your dry ingredients into a pot on the cooker hob (if you don’t have a cooker hob, the same ingredients can be used to make a delicious water-based tea. Just add all of the ingredients listed above into a tea pot, add freshly boiled water and allow it to steep for 3-5 minutes before straining into your cup).  


Step 5: Add your grated ginger and one cup of milk (you can also use a milk alternative. My personal favourite is oat milk) per serving to the pot and heat to just under a boil. Remember to stir often to avoid the chai boiling over or sticking to the pot. Allow to simmer for 6-8 minutes.


Step 6: Remove the chai from the cooker, add a lid and allow to settle for 5-10 minutes (this allows the flavours to develop).


Step 7: Strain into your mug and enjoy! Additional sweetener can be added if you prefer your drink a little sweeter.


And there you have it, one deliciously spiced and sweetened chai. If you need any help in making your chai, send us a message and we will see if we can help.


Chai being poured through a strainer into a mug.

4. How best to store your Sticky chai


Storing chai is something most people don’t think about but is really important. Here are a few best practice rules when it comes to tea:


  • As tea absorbs smells and moisture, you are going to want to keep your chai in an air tight container to keep it free of any unwanted scents. This also keeps it fresher for longer.

 

  • Next, tea isn’t a fan of light. Keep your chai in a dark cupboard or even better, use an opaque (not see-through) air tight container.

 

  • Your home-made sticky chai should keep for about 12 months if kept in these conditions and you used spices with long "Best Before" dates.  


5. Proposed Health Benefits of Sticky Chai


While ordered religiously by many for its creamy spiced flavour, chai also has many potential health benefits.

 

(Many of these potential health benefits are still to be studied fully. This is not an article claiming health benefits to drinking chai but instead a brief overview of where scientific studies currently show some signs of benefit in consuming these ingredients. Please always consult a health care professional if in doubt.)


Antioxidants:


Antioxidants protect your body from damage caused by free radicals. In simple terms, they act like sponges absorbing the not so friendly chemicals. Studies have shown promising evidence that ingredients such a cinnamon, tea, cloves and star anise all help to add antioxidants to the body. (1)


Anti-inflammatory:


Common chai ingredients such as ginger, black pepper corn and cloves all contain anti-inflammatory properties boasted in many scientific articles. Some of this evidence explores how foods rich in anti-inflammatory properties can aid the body and help prevent some long-term chronic conditions. (2)


Digestive Aid:


Our digestive systems have the power to keep us in bed for days or help us complete a marathon. They really are incredible, so why shouldn’t we give them a helping hand when we can? Ingredients like honey, ginger and cinnamon all work with our gut to aid in digestion and keep us feeling healthy. (3)


A selection of health boosting ingredients.

6. The Rising Popularity of Sticky Chai


Sticky chai is no longer confined to the coffee shops of Australia; its popularity has transcended borders and is gaining traction on a global scale. From specialty tea shops to trendy cafes, the unique charm of sticky chai has increased the standard of chai offered. This increase in popularity demonstrates a broader shift in tea culture, where consumers are seeking higher quality and more authentic experiences.


Chai, I believe, shouldn’t be packed full of artificial flavours, preservatives and sweeteners. It shouldn’t be a powder with sky high levels of refined sugar, but instead a natural and healthier alternative to many of the current chai options on the market. I encourage you to explore better chai options and the next time you’re in your local coffee shop, ask them why they don’t use a natural chai if all they have is powder or syrup options.


Conclusion:


I bet you didn’t think there would be so much to a seemingly niche drink such as sticky chai, eh? It's clear that this fan favourite is more than just a drink; it's a sensory experience, that invites your taste, smell and sight to enjoy.


From its humble origins to its current status as a global favourite, sticky chai continues to enchant tea lovers with its unique blend of spices and the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. So, the next time you crave a warming cup of chai, consider reaching for the sticky alternative for a truly immersive experience.


If you would like to try any of our own brand chai, then click below to check out our range of quick, easy and hassle free pre-made blends.




Articles used:


1: Cinnamon: A Multifaceted Medicinal Plant

 

2: Effect of Ginger on Inflammatory Diseases

 

3. The Potential of Honey as a Prebiotic Food to Re-engineer the Gut Microbiome Toward a Healthy State

Comments


ANDREW MCGUIRE

CHALA FOUNDER & CHAI EDUCATOR

Hello there!

If you want to learn more about chai, you have come to the right place!

 

With chai continuing to grow in popularity, there are lots of questions to be answered.

In my blog posts, I answer the questions that I receive daily from customers and those who come across Chala at markets or online.

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