History of Masala Chai

Masala Chai is a delightfully rich and creamy spiced tea, originating from India. It’s made from black tea and a variety of beautiful aromatic spices which are brewed in milk and sweetened with sugar or honey. Masala chai means ‘mixed spice tea’. It is also sometimes called Chai Latte

This delicious drink is an integral part of people’s daily life in India, being served on the streets from small road side tea vendors and used to welcome family and friends into their homes. Masala chai has now also become very popular in cafes and tea houses around the world.

The traditional and best masala chai is made with loose leaf tea and whole spices, which gives a more pungent, flavoursome brew. Be wary of sugary instant powdered chai made from very little tea or spices, and lots of sugar.

HOW TO BREW THE PERFECT MASALA CHAI:

The best way to brew masala chai is in a small saucepan. To make one cup of chai put into your saucepan 2 heap teaspoons of loose leaf Bodhi Organic masala chai with ¼ cup of water and bring to the boil. Add ¾ cup of your milk of choice (eg. organic soy or cow’s, almond milk, or coconut) and allow it to simmer for 5 minutes. The longer you brew it the stronger your chai will be. Strain and add a natural sweetener if you desire like raw honey or coconut sugar. Adding a medjool date (remove the pit first) is another delicious way to add natural sweetness to your chai. You can leave it in your cup and eat it at the end.

TIP: The aromatic compounds in spices dissolve best in fats and alcohol so brewing your chai with full fat milk or coconut milk will help bring out more of those lovely rich flavours.

HISTORY OF CHAI:

Masala chai hasn’t always been the drink of choice in India. In the 1830’s tea consumption was low and most people enjoyed coffee, even though large quantities of tea were grown in areas like Assam and Darjeeling.

The British East India company was becoming increasingly concerned about the Chinese monopoly on tea so in the early 20th century so they decided to start promoting tea to the locals to increase sales. They encouraged factories, mills and mines to give their workers tea breaks, and they supported tea vendors, know as chai wallahs, at railway stations. Initially tea on its own wasn’t too popular however as soon as someone tried adding strong spices to sweet milky tea, the much loved masala chai was born. Traditionally buffalo milk was used to make chai.

There was no fixed recipe or way to prepare masala chai. Many homes had their own family recipes made up of different spices. The spices used also varied throughout India depending on the region and climate, and local customs. The base for masala chai is a black tea, like Assam, or green tea can also be used for a more subtle flavour. In India they often use a type of Assam called ‘mamri’. The base spices used are ginger and cardamom pods, and then any additional herbs can be added including cinnamon, star anise, fennel, peppercorn, clove, nutmeg, chilli, licorice, turmeric and even saffron. You will find vanilla added to some more modern recipes too.

HEALTH BENEFITS:

Masala chai with all its lovely warming spices is beneficial for stimulating circulation and aiding digestion, making it a good choice for people who suffer from cold hands and feet, and digestive upsets such as excess wind and bloating. It also helps alleviate inflammation in the body due to the action of the fantastic anti-inflammatory herb ginger. This tasty tea also supplies plenty of antioxidants which help protect the body from cancer and cardiovascular disease. Cinnamon and black tea also help balance blood sugar levels and in turn can help curb sugar cravings.

By Lisa Guy

Lisa Guy

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