For Spicier Iced Chai, You Just Need A Spoonful Of Sugar

If coffee isn't your go-to morning beverage, chances are a cup of chai is, well, more your cup of tea. This spiced beverage, known more accurately as masala tea, was initially ingested as an elixir in Indian culture. It was crafted for its health benefits and aided those with digestive issues or poor cardiovascular health. Since then, chai has evolved into a sweeter drink, often including milk and sugar. 

Chai mainly contains spices like ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, peppercorn, cloves, and star anise. These ingredients have long been associated with improving human health. Cardamom, for example, can reportedly help battle cholesterol and high blood pressure. Cloves have an especially extensive history in the medical field. They were used to relieve pain, fight off disease, and alleviate nausea. Star anise is a popular culinary ingredient for its sweet and savory taste. Still, it is a significant source of iron that aids in respiration. Lastly, cinnamon has been used for its ability to lower blood sugar and decrease the risk of Alzheimer's. It also has a pretty amazing taste and can liven up any drink or dish.

After they are freshly ground, these spices are steeped in black tea in boiling water. They are then diluted with milk and served either hot or in a cup with ice. However, one of the most common issues with iced chai is its need for more spice. These ingredients are incredibly strong, so why do they disappear when poured over ice? 

Sugar is the unexpected ingredient you need

You would think adding some sort of familiar heat would make something spicy, right? Cumin, cayenne pepper, and a dash of chili powder are all great sources of powdered spice that can elevate a dish or beverage. But for extra spicy iced chai, what you really need to turn those embers into flames is sugar. 

Now, it's important to note that the sugar itself doesn't make the drink spicy; it just tricks your senses into noticing the surrounding flavors more. This sweet addition is especially needed in iced chai because our mouths lack the sensitivity it acquires when eating or drinking something hot. Basically, the higher the temperature, the more responsive we are to noticing other elements. So, to trick ourselves into spicing up iced chai, adding a bit of sweetener to it produces an entirely different experience, ultimately encouraging us to believe that there is something other than just flavored water or spice in the cup. 

You can also add a sweetened cold foam sprinkled with cayenne pepper to the top of your iced chai. This spice includes capsaicin, an irritant that causes a fiery feeling in the mouth and tongue upon ingestion. It is what gives chili peppers that familiar, tangible heat. This chemical works as an antioxidant and has been associated with boosting metabolism, mood elevation, and the prevention of cardiovascular disease. It can also improve your iced chai, especially when mixed with a vanilla cold foam. 

Spicy breakfast drinks are simple to make

While tea concentrates can be a quick pick-me-up, they often aren't as strong or flavorful as authentic chai. Fortunately, this beverage is pretty easy to make and only has a few simple instructions to follow. First, you'll need to gather your spices: cloves, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, and peppercorn. Boil your water, add your spices, and allow them to infuse. Finally, mix in your milk and add your sweetener. Let the mixture cool before serving if you intend to enjoy your chai over ice. You can add a vanilla cream cold foam to the top by whisking heavy cream, milk, and extract together. Add a dash of cayenne pepper to the final product if you'd like to increase the heat in your breakfast drink. 

Still, spicy morning beverages extend past chai. In fact, one of the most popular drinks in Mexico is spicy mocha, made from coffee, cocoa powder, cayenne pepper, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and heavy cream. It's similar to Mexican hot chocolate except for the added coffee or espresso. Once you have your mug of hot coffee in hand, add the extra ingredients to form a creamy caffeinated mocha. Ginger turmeric lattes are another classic breakfast beverage with a special kick. Ginger is a renowned spice known for reducing inflammation, and turmeric is an antioxidant that can aid in muscle restoration. To make this latte, simply blend the two together with boiling milk, lemongrass, water, and honey. Enjoy!