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Why powdered chai is the new instant coffee

powdered chai latte

Confession: I was soo nervous about writing this post. It’s not in my nature to be ‘mean’ about other people or products. So it was admittedly a stretch for me to write a whole blog on this rather cheeky comparison!

I’ve been mostly focusing my efforts on sharing everything good about what we do – the benefits of our authentic blend and why we’re different. Positive vibes only! Our little company is still relatively new – but one thing we’ve found along the journey is that it can be difficult for those who are new to chai lattes or don’t know much about them to appreciate what constitutes an authentic blend (and what doesn’t). I’ve found the easiest, simplest way for me to explain to discerning coffee connoisseurs is with this coffee-based comparison:

“If you wouldn’t serve instant coffee, why would you serve powdered chai latte?”


When we initially came back from Melbourne I often forgot I was in Manchester and came to expect authentic chai latte from the city’s speciality coffee shops. You can imagine how disappointed I was to find powder everywhere. I was even more disappointed (and surprised) to learn that some places weren’t even aware of the difference between powdered chai lattes and real ones. Isn’t the powdered chai latte the real deal? As fellow chai latte lovers will testify – no, it isn’t. Slowly we’re getting there as we introduce Aura Chai to more coffee shops and cafes. Still, I felt it was necessary for me to share some more detailed insights into the importance of authenticity – and why speciality coffee shops worth their salt should be serving a proper chai latte.

Quality coffee is never instant. Neither is quality chai latte

Having hung around trendy hipster coffee shops for long enough now, I’ve come to know that they prioritise flavour and provenance above all else. Often sourcing from local suppliers, they serve a carefully curated menu of artisanal treats. With this in mind I’m pretty sure many owners would choke on their single origin cold brew at the thought of serving crappy instant coffee at their establishment. This is why it surprised me to see so many speciality coffee shops serving powdered chai latte. At first I thought it was because of a lack of authentic options on the market – so I set up Aura Chai. But then I realised it was also down to lack of information and appreciation for chai latte, which is still a relatively new thing here in the UK. Authenticity is just as important when it comes to chai latte as it is when it comes to tea and coffee. Here’s why…

Powdered chai latte lacks depth of flavour

People who have only ever tried powdered chai latte often say ‘I don’t like cinnamon’ or ‘I don’t like chai latte’. Then they try a real chai and wonder how it could be that they like it so much! Powdered chai latte is often simplistic when it comes to taste, compared with the complex palette of flavours that are usually associated with spiced chai. Many times any other spices present are overpowered with cinnamon, which has come to be the flavour most commonly associated with chai. We often detect a hint of surprise as people taste our chai latte blend for the first time and exclaim: ‘I can taste ALL the spices!’ This is no coincidence. A number of factors are at play here – namely the powdered nature of the spices and the ingredients list. When spices are ground and powdered they lose some of their flavour and health benefits. Powdered chai also features only a handful of the spices you’d expect to find in an authentic blend.

Powdered chai latte is often unhealthy

Chai latte was first created hundreds of years ago as an Ayurvedic tonic. It was designed to harness the wonderful health benefits of its many spices, which infuse their goodness into creamy milk for a comforting and delicious drink. In India it’s often served with condensed milk (not so healthy!) – but to maximise the health benefits, it’s better without the sugar.

I personally avoid sugar for health reasons – so I know how disappointing it must be for diabetics and others with medical motives when powdered chai is the only option. It’s easy to be fooled by fancy names for sugar (agave, palm nectar, coconut honey) or chemical sweeteners. But even healthier sugar alternatives are metabolised in exactly the same way as white sugar once they enter the body. And because even distribution is necessary to balance the sweetness, powdered chai latte manufacturers often have to put in a lot more than you would yourself if you were sweetening to taste. This results in sickly sweetness which can sometimes overpower the flavour altogether.

There’s no real benefit to serving powdered chai latte

Like instant coffee, powdered chai latte is hailed as a ‘convenience’ option for cafes. But it only takes a couple of minutes longer to make a real chai latte – and the flavour pay off is huge! The more ‘luxurious’ products are comparative from a financial perspective, too – meaning there’s no real reason for speciality coffee shops to serve them over the real deal.

Customers know the difference – and they prefer an authentic blend

This one’s an important one…since customer experience and taste are both priorities for speciality coffee shops and independent cafes. Nobody wants to have disappointed customers who are underwhelmed with what you have to offer.

I created Aura Chai as a disappointed customer. I was fed up of walking into a lovely coffee shop for a chai latte and walking out feeling disappointed. And I’m not alone in this. Since starting Aura Chai I’ve been inundated with lovely messages of support from fellow chai latte lovers – who are also feeling frustrated with the prevalence of powder and syrup even in high end coffee shops. Some places feel it doesn’t matter, or believe their customers won’t know the difference. Take it from us – we do! Just as we’d know if you replaced your freshly ground coffee beans with freeze-dried Kenco.

If customers prefer it. It tastes better. It’s good for you. AND it aligns with your status as a speciality coffee shop. Then why serve anything other than the real deal? Leave the powdered chai to Costa and Starbucks and come join us today 🙂

Want to make the switch? Get in touch today to book a taster session or request a sample!