Chai is a spicy-sweet milky tea beverage extremely popular in India. This centuries old beverage has been discovered by western nations and they are making it their own.
Masala chai began as an ancient Hindu natural healing method, for the practice of ayurveda which uses herbs, spices and sweeteners to heal the body. Masala chai literally means spicy tea in the Hindi language. Masala chai, or spicy tea, is what the Western world means by the shortened reference ‘chai’.
There is no set recipe, spices or preparation method. Chai typically contains a rich black tea, milk, a sweetener and a combination of spices. Common spice combinations contain cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and peppercorn. The sweetener is necessary to bring out the full robust flavor of the spices and most recipes use large amounts of sugar. Generally it is prepared by boiling the water with sugar and spices, adding the milk and tea, simmering for a few minutes, straining and serving.
Chai is commonplace in India. Many families have their own recipes. Street vendors sell it in public places from stalls called wallahs. The drink is gaining popularity in Western cultures due to its delicious taste and many health benefits. According to chai-tea.org the last few years have shown tremendous growth of interest and popularity in the West and industry analysts expect it to become as common as coffee lattes and cappuccinos.
Tea has proved to be incredibly good for you. It is naturally low in caffeine and has only half the amount of coffee. It contains vitamins, minerals, and ten times the antioxidants of many fruits and vegetables. Tea contains antioxidants called flavonoids. The strongest of these flavonoids, ECGC, may help fight free radicals that can contribute to clogged arteries, heart disease and cancer. Studies have found that tea may help with cancer, heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. The added milk and spices add to the health benefits of chai and it is said to be soothing to the stomach.
Western culture has put its own spin on chai. It is now widely available in specialty coffee shops and grocery stores. The US prefers sweet versions and often uses lots of sugar while eliminating the savory spices such as peppercorns. Chai can now be found in low-fat and low-calorie versions as well as milkshakes, ices, mixes and chocolate.
Sweet and healthy, chai has all the ingredients of a world wide sensation. With so many varieties to choose from there’s sure to be something to please everyone.
Sources: Accessed on August 10, 2009