Wendyl Wants To Know
Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.

Wendyl Wants To Know: 'Exotic' cuppa short on spice, long on sugar

Lipton Chai Latte - $6.68 for 18g g or 8 serves. Photo / Wendyl Nissen
Lipton Chai Latte - $6.68 for 18g g or 8 serves. Photo / Wendyl Nissen

Chai is a word which has become synonymous with a milky spiced tea that you can find on the streets of India. There it is referred to as "masala chai" and involves heating tea with spices and hot milk. I have just returned from India where I became quite addicted to the masala chai, which has no resemblance to the chai mixes we get in cafes here. When I opened my emails I was interested to find a a message from a reader: "I was wondering if you could look into Lipton Chai Latte, I'd like to know if it contains any caffeine. It says on the packaging that it has instant tea powder, what is this?"

Lipton Chai Latte
- $6.68 for 18g or 8 serves


Milk solids (50 per cent)
When you dehydrate milk you get proteins and carbohydrates left behind - milk solids.

This drink is very high in sugar. In India they would usually use jaggery which is a form of palm sugar. For each cup of this drink you will consume 16.6g of sugar, which is about four teaspoons.

Vegetable fat
This product advertises itself as 98 per cent fat free, so there's not too much fat in here. You'll get 3.4g total fat and 2.7g saturated fat in each cup.

Glucose Syrup (from wheat)
This is more sugar in a liquid form taken from wheat.

Flavours (contain milk, soybean derivatives)
These will be artificial flavours as there is nothing on the packet stating they aren't. These will be imitating the natural spicy flavour found in chai, such as the cardamom, ginger and cinnamon they advertise on the packet. "It combines tea with exotic spice flavours such as cinnamon, cardamom and ginger ..." it says.

Instant tea powder (3 per cent)
This is usually used in the US to make iced tea and recently a new product has been on our shelves called Nestea Ice Tea Lemon/Peach Powder, which you can mix to make iced tea. Instant tea is produced from black tea by extracting the liquid, which is then made into a powder.

It will still contain caffeine although there's nothing on the label to tell us this.

Mineral salts (340, 341, 452)
These are potassium phosphate (340), calcium phosphate (341) and potassium metaphosphate (452). Mineral salts are used in foods as anti-caking agents, acidity regulators or emulsifiers.

Emulsifiers (471, 472c)
Mono and diglycerides of fatty acids (471) are produced from glyceryl and natural fatty acids usually from hydrogenated soya bean oil. It produces a white or cream coloured waxy solid which is used as an emulsifier. The other emulsifier is citric acid esters of 471, which differs only from 471 because it has citric acid in its make-up.

Ascorbic acid
This is a form of vitamin C and will be in here as a preservative.

Colour (beta-carotene)
This is a natural orange colour found in many plants and egg yolks.

My recommendations:

I find it very hard to reconcile the fact that exotic spices such as cardamom, cinnamon and ginger, which are promised on the packaging, make no appearance in the ingredients. Rather than add real spices Lipton has replaced them with artificial flavourings, which feels wrong on so many levels. This drink is also extraordinarily sweet and not very spicy.

Instead of mixing this mix with water you can buy chai tea bags which at least have the real spices in them, or buy a masala chai spice mix at an Indian food supply store. Or you can mix up your own blend of cinnamon bark, cardamom pods, powdered ginger, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper in a coffee grinder and use tsp of this mix to 1 tsp black tea. Add to cup of water and cup of milk in a saucepan, heat and simmer for five minutes, Then strain and add sugar for a real cup of masala chai.

* Artificial flavours replace exotic spices.

* Very sweet, about 4 tsp sugar per serve.

* Uses instant tea powder, which contains caffeine.

- NZ Herald

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