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The Best Chai Tea to Spice Up Your Morning

Our culinary experts found the best chai tea options from loose leaf teas to spicy sachets.

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The Best Chai Tea To Spice Up Your MorningTMB Studio

On the Hunt for the Best Chai Tea

For many, a cup of coffee is the only way to start the day. But if you crave caffeine and spice, we bet you reach for a cup of chai.

If you’re unfamiliar, chai tea is a blend of black tea leaves and aromatic spices like cardamom, ginger, star anise and cloves. The combination and proportion vary on the type you buy. You may even find chai made with black pepper, cinnamon, allspice or nutmeg.

A cup of this tea is a spicy way to warm up in the morning—provided you find a good brand to steep in your favorite mug. Lackluster chai at the base of your latte can be disappointing.

So how do you ensure that your morning pick-me-up has the kick you’re looking for? You rely on our Test Kitchen experts to taste all the most popular brands to find the best chai.

Brown Sugar Shortbread with teaTaste of Home

How We Tested Different Types of Chai

For this test, our team got their kettles boiling (yep, we used our favorites from our electric kettle test). Each tea was steeped according to package directions and then sipped blindly. Blind tasting is a major part of our testing process. We don’t want to be swayed by pretty packaging or big names.

During the test, our pros kept these criteria in mind.

  • Balance: Chai, as we noted, is made up of black tea and an array of spices. In a good chai, no one spice should overpower. Sure, one brand may be more ginger-forward or tea-centric, but overall the flavors should work together in harmony.
  • Flavor: Remember, the most important quality to our Test Kitchen is always flavor. Our team searched for a tea that tasted delicious and made them want to cozy up with a good book before getting into the kitchen to test reader recipes.

While our experts sampled nine different types of chai, five rose to the top of our rankings and earned the right to be called Test Kitchen-Preferred.

Rishi Masala Chai Via Target.com

Best Spicy Chai

Rishi Masala Chai

While many like a smooth chai to start their day, others want the punch of a spicy chai. If you’re in the latter camp, pick up sachets of Rishi Masala Chai.

This cup of tea had the most kick of any brand we tried. According to our Test Kitchen’s Sarah Fischer, “this cup has a nice amount of spice.”

This is thanks to the precise blend of aromatics inside each sachet. Rishi Masala Chai contains ginger, black pepper and cinnamon—all the spices that perk up your taste buds. It also has cardamom and clove to give the tea a bit more balance.

If you enjoy chai lattes, a stronger brew like this is ideal. When you add the milk to your drink, the spices will still be prominent.

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Celestial Seasonings India Spice Chai Tea Via Amazon.com

Best Smooth Chai

Celestial Seasonings India Spice Chai Tea

For a supremely balanced cup of chai, steep yourself a cup of Celestial Seasonings India Spice Chai Tea.

With this cup, “you get the spices, which one wants in a chai tea,” says Sarah Farmer, head of the Test Kitchen, “but it’s not such a kick.”

This doesn’t mean that this tea doesn’t have spice, though. In fact, you get a really pleasant blend of ginger, vanilla and clove, but it’s all well balanced with plenty of black tea for a flavorful, smooth brew to start your morning.

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Best Chai For Cinnamon LoversVia Walmart.com

Best Chai for Cinnamon Lovers

Stash Chai Spice Black Tea

To start the day, many folks crave a bit of cinnamon, be it from a slice of coffee cake, piece of toast or a sprinkle on top of oatmeal. You can also get a cinnamon kick in a cup of Stash Chai Spice Black Tea.

“This is a chai for cinnamon lovers, that’s for sure!” says Sarah Farmer. A cup of this deep golden tea has a cinnamon-forward aroma and pleasant cinnamon flavor that lingers after each sip.

But this tea is more than just cinnamon, of course. Every sip had a full chai flavor with plenty of black tea and notes of allspice.

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Trader Joe's Spiced Chai Via Traderjoes.com

Best Sweet Chai

Trader Joe’s Spiced Chai

If you prefer chai that tastes a bit more like dessert than black tea, snag a box of Trader Joe’s Spiced Chai.

“This one is cozy,” says Maggie. Those warm and cuddly vibes come from this tea’s notes of vanilla and caramel—flavors every one of our pros noted during this test.

This tea doesn’t deliver strong, spicy flavors. Instead, you’ll notice more subtle spices that harmonize with the dessert-like qualities. So put on the kettle and relax with a cup of this tea on a cold day. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a good book.

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David Rio Chai Cart Traditional Masala ChaiVia Davidrio.com

Best Loose Leaf Chai

David Rio Chai Cart Traditional Masala Chai

More of a tea aficionado? You may want loose leaf tea. If that’s your preferred way to steep, our Test Kitchen recommends David Rio Chai Cart Traditional Masala Chai.

Despite having a paler color when steeped, this David Rio chai tea has a “peppery and bold chai flavor,” according to Sarah Famer.

Every sip is packed with complex chai flavor. After just two minutes of steeping, you get powerful cardamom and black pepper flavors. But there are also some unexpected (but very welcome) flavors in the mix including lemon, clove and licorice. This unusual and spice forward taste makes this a brand our Test Kitchen couldn’t help but love.

“I keep going back to it,” says Shannon Norris in our Test Kitchen. “The heat is addictive.”

If the heat of this tea isn’t quite for you (or you steeped it a bit too long), Shannon suggests adding a touch of sugar to mellow it out.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.