Not All Milk Are Created Equal


At the end of the day, just like you, I love to eat and is curious about the properties of food. Keep in mind that I’m not a food scientist, therefore cannot guarantee the accuracy of described synthesis. I however, try my best to enlighten them as logically as possible. If you found errors and wish to correct them, feel free to leave comments below. Now, let’s get into it.

Did you know milk has a compound that led them to extract more flavor?

Caffeine dependency

Part of ‘grad student diet’ includes a heavy consumption of coffee on daily basis. While this is true for some, I like my caffeine in the form of tea. Fortunately there is a cafe on campus that serves a decent, albeit under-spiced, chai latte. But, whenever I crave for a truly spiced chai (otherwise known as masala chai), I take the matter into my own hands by making one at home.

Did someone say chai? Chaider near Brown University, Providence RI (USA).
Did someone say chai? Chaider near Brown University, Providence RI (USA).

Making masala chai

The ingredients to make masala chai are:

  1. Tea leaves (loose or bagged)
  2. Spices (cloves, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and black pepper)
  3. Whole milk

When the ingredients are mixed together at boiling temperature, aromatic compound from the spices dissolve into the milk, eventually yielding a sweet and spicy liquid that subtly burns your back of throat. Therefore, to ensure high extraction rate of the aromatic compound, it is important to use whole milk.

Whole vs. skimmed milk

In whole milk, unlike skimmed milk, the lipid chain that forms the fatty acid is not broken. Meaning, the complex mixture of lipids consisting O, H, and C molecules (hydroxyl, ester) are retained in its original state. When activation energy is supplied thermally through boiling, these chains reacts with benzene ring from the spices, thus extracting the aromatic compounds. Through this reaction, the end product results in a flavorful masala chai.

Non-dairy milk (soy, almond, etc)

Compared to dairy milk, soy milk is said to have less fat whereas almond milk has no fat. From my experiments using various milk for masala chai, I find almond milk to be too sweet for masala chai, whereas soy milk produced a balanced taste between the spice and milk, resulting in smooth masala chai.

The Takeaway

Like pizza toppings, I believe milk is also a highly personal choice. For masala chai, It’s helpful to know that the aromatic extraction degree is dependent on the milk fat level (on condition that you use real spices, not powdered chai from your nearest Starbucks). So then it really comes down to how spicy you want your masala chai.

Thanks for reading!


  1. The Hatchi Cooks (great blog that present detailed cooking process, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you’re not, check it out anyway for Indian pantry goodness)
  2. Compound Interest (beautiful visualization of chemical compounds in our everyday life. Ever wondered why bacon smells so good?)
  3. Milk Composition and Synthesis Resource Library, University of Illinois
  4. R. E. Ward et al., International Dairy Journal, 2014

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