There’s been a big increase in recent years of street food style eateries serving traditional Asian chai and nashta (tea and snacks). Chaiwala is perhaps the most well-known example with many branches across the UK and new independent places often mirroring their example. The Karak chai is the signature drink offered at Chaiiwala and similar stores.
Karak chai is a traditional Asian style tea made with Indian spices and milk. It is brewed on the stove for a long time making the tea stronger, creamy and sweet with a tinge of cardamom and ginger. It’s really delicious.
I’m an Asian girl who loves her traditional foods and I am totally here for the Karak chai trend. You can get a decent size cup of Karak chai for around £1.50 which is much cheaper than anything you’d get if you went and got a drink for most coffee shops, chain or independent. There are a few Karak chai places in our local area and prior to Covid-19, we’d often find ourselves sitting in for a comforting cup of chai and some tasty snacks. It would just be a nice, family-friendly place to sit down for a break without having to sit for ages for a full meal. And our toddler enjoyed it too.
Karak chai is pretty simple to make at home. Since discovering places like Chaiiwala, I’ve also started to make it at home some times. I take a few shortcuts; I use tea bags instead as we don’t drink loose black tea and though I use whole green cardamoms, I use powdered ginger as I feel it is a milder taste. I’ll brew it all it a pot on the stove, and depending on how large the pot of tea is, it usually takes between 15-30 minutes depending on how it tastes.
Karak chai tastes so good this way and it sounds so simple, you may wonder why you need an instant version such as Royal Chai. Well, same reason why I would still pay £1.60 for a small cup in a chai shop. Convenience. I’d often seen the box in my local Indian grocery store but didn’t try it out until I was gifted it by my sister in law, and perhaps I wouldn’t have bought it muself before then as I was sceptical of the need for it.
With Royal Chai’s sachet, you just pour a sachet of powder into a cup and just add hot water from the kettle and give it a stir and that’s it. The powder looks like a light brown colur, a mix of tea, milk powder and powdered spices. How does it taste? Pretty good actually. I’ve always been a fan on milk powders like Nido to add to my regular cup of tea anyways, and Royal Chai’s powdered Karak tea still has a good amount of creaminess. With my first cup, I did feel like I could taste the water a bit like how hot chocolate with water tastes compared to hot chocolate with milk, but the more cups I drank, the better it tasted.
I would love to be able to cook up a pot of Karak chai more often but again, it is a bit of luxury these days, especially having two kids under two. There have been many times where I have to really organise myself to eat 3 meals, let alone have time for snacks. When I’ve managed to get my toddler down for a nap and then have a few minutes spare before the baby cries to be fed, I’ve often been able to stick the kettle on, pour the sachet into the cup and stir and then run and settle the baby. Then once the baby was fed and asleep, I could enjoy a few minutes of blissful quiet with my tea and perhaps a small sweet snack.
So if you’re short on time to be brewing your own delicious teas, give Royal chai’s Karak tea a go. You can get sweetened and unsweetened versions, though the sweetened version is not cloying at all and Karak chai is meant to be sweet. But it may be a good option for diabetics or those who like to use alternative sweeteners. It retails around £2.50-3.00 for a box of 10 sachets. Royal chai does other instant teas too like masala tea, Pink Kashmiri tea and saffron chai. I would definitely be interested to try the pink tea version next as that is another slightly time-consuming tea to make with very particular ingredients to get that lovely pink colour. Let us know if you are also a fan of the Karak chai trend!