Pleading your allegiance to any one of the world’s two most popular beverages can be a matter of serious contempt. This we say, despite the fact that the majority of the global population who simply cannot get by their day without their steaming cuppa(s) of intoxication identify as exclusively a ‘tea person’ or a ‘coffee person’. For others like us though, more ambiguous in their preferences but no less addicted to that daily dose of aromatic brewing, the warm hue of a chai has us much of a lively impact on us as does the robust aroma of a perfectly brewed cup of coffee. In refusing to do away with our morning tea for it is our antidote to the miseries of the day to follow and yet not being able to resist the strong whiffs of coffee to have us believe in life and in ourselves, this still significantly sizeable population dwell in the dual worlds of the c’s with impartial clamour. You will find us all in the highest of spirits as we sip our masala chai by the nukkad, wholeheartedly partaking of the adda around which the chai session gathers its romance. No any less affable is the us you would discover over endless cups of coffee as we fancy up on some coffee date, all sophisticated and stuff although why this prejudice of tea being earthy and coffee more ‘heavenly’ is something that has failed to dawn precisely on any one of us. In elaborating on the simplistic essence of a kulhad of tea and the rather chic appeal of a cup of coffee, the world might be trying to come up with a definition of what needs to be brewing for whom but in all our mighty, unbiased and unconditional love for either of these holdings of warmth, it indeed is not possible to make do with just one over the other.
While this discussion of our beverage hankerings might not hold enough ‘steam’ to hold the purview of worldly interest despite the fact that tea and coffee indeed do hold more than enough importance all over the globe beyond their characteristic as ‘mere’ drinks, what tends to arise from a love as vague- or rather as profoundly sure to accord place of importance to either while not negating the influence of the other- as this is something that follows only as the ‘natural order’ of the day. What we are waxing eloquent about here goes beyond the refreshing calibre of a perfect cup of chai or the soul warming quality of just the right amount of coffee. Our attention- and our taste buds of course- is held in rapt interest instead this time again by the two C’s indeed but in a measure that has us being even more appreciative of life. For in stumbling upon something as perplexing as ‘dirty chai’, we indeed have come across the perfect concoction of what can put our souls to blissful rest in its deliverance that, as they say, brings together the ‘best of both worlds’.
Essentially, dirty chai isn’t like anything like you would envision it to be in its not very ‘clean’ presence on any menu. But as anyone well versed with the glossary of culinary terms will know, dirty chai, like all other ‘dirty’ beverages, is still chai but with an ingredient or two tweaked out or in to make for an altogether different cuppa for you to sip on. Which brings us to why we had let this tug of war oscillate between the dual delights of tea and coffee. Dirty chai indeed is chai and coffee infused in one, making for a drink that is just the perfect solution for all indecisive souls like us out there in the world, refusing to give up on any of the many goods of life. Chai latte or more simply milk tea, masala chai too at that, perked up further with a shot or two of espresso, as per your preference if you happen to decide on this one, is what makes up this serving of dir’tea’ness. Despite however its more popular ‘unpopular’ name, this serving up of tea and coffee all in one is also called by a slew of such unusual names as Red Eye Chai, Chai Charger, Java Chai, Tough Guy Chai, Turbochaiger or simply as the more explanatory Espresso Chai. But even on the premise of its rather interesting concept, dirty chai was invented not by some experimental mind brewing some tea even when lingering on the more ‘luxurious’ expanse of the coffee world. Rather, chai came to be dirty as an accident in Covent Garden, England, when apparently, a woman making a chai latte for an American in the late 1990s mistakenly poured in a shot of espresso to the beverage.
Whatever the origins might be of this rather unusual shot at refreshment, it is no wonder that dirty chai came to catch on to the fancy of the world. Still delivering the kick of coffee even when cutting down on the caffeine content, while retaining still the flavour of tea, intact even with all the zing of its masala components, dirty chai is just the perfect drink for those who like their coffee mellow and their tea strong! Smooth and milky, incorporating mild notes of both tea and coffee and with a color that is a coming together of the richly warm tones of tea and the intensely dark hue of coffee, dirty chai also is as versatile as your regular chai- or even coffee for that matter, in that it can be served hot as well as cold.
What’s more, in being a combination of the two c’s, dirty chai delivers not just in the taste but also with a myriad of health benefits which otherwise would be exclusive to either. Specifically in boosting the immune system of the body, dirty chai scores brownie points. Packed with the antioxidants from the tea that which is elevated further by its fusion with a range of masalas including cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon sticks et al that lend added warmth to the body, dirty chai can be just the perfect shot of intoxication to destress your body. The polyphenols present in tea also work wonders for gut health by eliminating bad bacteria and thereby further increasing immunity. Regulating the blood pressure and relaxing the tension in blood vessels and arteries while also working against the bad cholesterol levels of the body is what dirty chai does, in its stemming as a tea beverage.
The caffeine dose of dirty chai on the other hand does good to the body as well, specially in its low content that which eliminates most of its negatives. Apart from helping with the energy levels of the body and its concentration, the espresso in dirty chai also helps with memory. Caffeine is also an effective calorie burning agent and can reduce also sudden hunger pangs which are responsible for obesity and overweight. Moderate consumption of caffeine has found to be helpful in reducing the risk of prostate cancer and dirty chai with its sufficiently safe caffeine content is a particular winner at that. But perhaps the most wondrous of benefits exclusive to dirty chai is one that appropriately fuses its residing in both the tea and the coffee content. Tea being effective in regulating blood sugar levels and coffee capable of lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes, the dual incorporation of these benefits renders dirt chai a perfect agent to prevent the sudden spike and drop of sugar levels amongst diabetics while not interfering with the commitment you pursue with your cuppa.
Something as unique as dirty chai would have found more than a few dedicated takers even without any health benefits whatsoever. But the world of good it tends to do to the body, more than even your regular cup of tea or coffee, makes it increasingly common a choice among both chai and/ or coffee aficionados. Even in its accidental origins therefore, dirty chai has ‘evolved’ over the years to take on quite a few variations all over the world.
Perhaps the most explored of all dirty chai variants is the Hong Kong specialty, that which is known as Yuengyueng or Yuangyuang. Made by combining three parts black coffee and seven parts Hong Kong-style milk tea though the style of preparation can still call for some tweaks, yuangyuang however is not exactly classified as a type of dirty chai since its origin predates that of it. Perhaps emerging sometime in the 1950s though with a disputed legacy, yuengyueng too can be served either hot or cold. Sweet, creamy and definitely and intensely caffeinated, this makes for a cuppa that will instantly have you up and about in your spirits.
The tea- coffee hybrid from Ethiopia, spreeze or spritz as it is called sees its preparation with the tea steeped in a cup and sweetened with sugar before an espresso shot is poured over the top.
This fusion of tea and coffee finds expression also in Malaysia as Kopi Cham where it is a beverage that is made by mixing an intense black tea with sugar, evaporated milk, and concentrated coffee.