|Chai Tea - The Popular Sweet, Spicy
Specialty Tea From India
|If you love tea and warm, soothing spices like cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon,
then India's sweet and spicy Chai or Masala Chai is your cup of tea.
|The traditional form of chai was
created in the early 1900's in
what was then British ruled India.
In an effort to encourage more
tea usage among their workers, the British owned
Indian Tea Association encouraged all factories,
mines, and textile mills to provide tea breaks,
going so far as to support independent chai
wallahs (or chaiwalas) to sell tea on board the
growing railway system.
Officially the tea was
to be served English
style with a small
amount of milk and
sugar added to strong
black tea. But instead
the independent ven-
|dors increased the proportions of milk and sugar and added spices to the milk, reducing the
usage (and consequently the purchase) of more tea.
Although the Indian Tea Association strongly disapproved it was
too late. Masala chai had become the popular choice over plain
tea and before long it spread beyond India and South Asia to
the rest of the world, gaining loyal followers along the way.
The original recipe and traditional preparation of Masala chai is
to combine milk, water, loose leaf tea, and spices, bringing the
mixture to a boil or a constant simmer, and straining off the solid tea and spice residue before
Although the ingredients vary from one
location to the next, the traditional, orig-
inal chai was made with a half cup each
of water and milk, cardamom powder,
cinnamon powder, ground cloves, ginger
powder, powdered pepper, and one
teaspoon of loose black tea.
Because of the large number of possible
variations, Masala chai can be considered
a class of tea rather than a specific type,
such as black tea or green tea. That
said, there are always four basic compon-
ents of Masala chai. These are:
Tea base - this is usually a strong black
tea such as India's Assam, so that the sweeteners
and spices don't overpower the flavor of the tea. A
specific inexpensive type of Assam tea called mamri
is most often used in India. Mamri is processed in a
way that creates granules, rather than leaf tea. Al-
though most chai tea in India is brewed with strong black tea, Kashmiri chai is brewed using
green gunpowder tea.
Sweetener - along with plain white cane sugar, Demerara sugar, other
brown sugars, palm or coconut sugars, or honey is used as the sweetener.
Condensed milk is also used, serving as a dual purpose sweetener and milk
Milk - generally whole milk is used because it's rich. Also, as noted above,
condensed milk can be used as both the milk and sweetener.
Spices - traditional Masala chai was designed to be strong and spicy, brew-
ed with what are considered to be "warm spices." The basic spices include
fresh ginger, green cardamom pods, cinnamon, fennel seeds, peppercorn or black pepper, and
cloves. Traditionally cardamom was the dominant flavor.
In Western India fennel and black pepper are deleted, and in Bhopal a pinch of salt is added. A
Kashmiri version of chai uses green tea rather than black and incorporates more subtle flavors
with almonds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and sometimes saffron.
Other spices and flavorings include nutmeg, rose petals (boiled
with the tea), and licorice root.
The popular, spicy Masala chai has made its way around the
world with each country adapting it to the local and regional
tastes. It can be found in many variations in the U.S., of course,
with every cafe, restaurant, and coffee house swearing by their
own unique version.
Supermarkets in the West carry prepackaged single serve tea bags, as well as bottles of chai
spice. American mixes usually contain powdered spices with cinnamon and sugar many times
the dominant flavors.
If you would rather your chai be cold, Starbucks offers a chai frappuccino
blended creme which consists of a slushy spiced tea, ice, and milk, blended
and topped with whipped cream. Or It's a Grind Coffee House offers a
similar blended chai latte.
Some other U.S. coffeehouses offer a concoction of Masala chai with
espresso, calling it by many different names, including java chai, red eye
chai, chai charger, tough guy chai, and dirty chai, just to name a few.
|Visit our Hot Tea Drinks Recipes page for a Masala Chai Recipe, and to learn how to make your own flavored or blend-
ed teas, visit our Blended-Fillable Tea Bags page and make your own Masala chai tea bags.
You can also find great classic chai blends from like masala chai with black tea, ginger root, cinnamon, and
green cardamom, together with a hint of vanilla. Chai tea is soooo good and soothing and there's nothing like a hot,
sweet and spicy cup after a long hectic day. Adagio also has a yummy chocolate chai, thai chai, vanilla rooibos chai,
spiced apple and green chai. They're all good--the only problem is deciding which to try first :-) Click their link above.
Whether you design your own recipe or buy it pre-blended, I have to warn you, once you try chai tea, you'll be
hooked for life. Enjoy.
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