What is chai?
Chai is the hindi word for tea. Specifically, chai is black tea and milk (sugar and spices are optional). Chai is a quintessential Indian beverage, and is the most consumed beverage next to water.
The key to a good cup of chai is the tea itself and the method of preparation. The tea from Assam region (the largest tea-growing region in India) is known for its boldness and is best suited for chai as it holds its flavor when combined with milk and spices. The right way to make chai is to boil the tea with milk.
In the US, "chai" found in most cafes is made by steaming milk with a tea concentrate. We wish more cafes would label their chai drink as Chai Latte as it is made latte style. Even though flavor profile of a latte-style chai is very different from traditional Indian chai (where the milk and the tea are boiled together), we thank Starbucks and Oregon Chai for making chai so popular in the US.
There is no standard recipe for Masala Chai (spiced tea). Every household in India has their own way of making it. Some of the common spices used to make chai is ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper.
Drinking tea, in all different cultures, is a social event. It's meant to be consumed sitting down, and some eastern cultures have created elaborate ceremonies to signify its importance in their culture.
In India, the consumption of tea for medicinal and therapeutic purposes was documented as far back as 500 BC. However, it was the British who introduced the Indians to the culture of drinking black tea with milk and sugar. Indians adopted the recipe, boiled the tea with spices and milk to make chai in its current form.
The British East India Company started the commercial production of tea in India in the 19th century. The foothills of Himalayas in the northeast region proved to be the ideal climate for tea plantations. As a result, India has become one of the largest tea producers in the world.
Those who traveled to India are familiar with carts on sidewalks and street corners selling chai and other goodies. Like the Chinese, Indians drink chai multiple times a day. Like in Britain, the afternoon chai is often accompanied with snacks. As it is with eastern culture, chai is a sign of hospitality. If you prefer to have your chai the “British way” – black tea with a spot of milk - you are likely to be considered an elitist in India.
Most people drink chai because they love it! We recommend that you choose to drink chai for its great taste and the caffeine boost, if you so desire.
A common myth is that green tea has more health benefits than black tea. This is simply not true! This myth is due to fact that vast majority of studies have been done with green tea. However, as all tea (green, black, white, etc) comes from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis, they all offer similar benefits.
The spices we use in the Masala Chai are known in Ayurveda to have many health benefits, especially relating to the digestive system, like stimulating the appetite, reducing gas, and counteracting stomach acidity.
Ginger improves digestion, prevents and manages stomach ulcers, protects against symptoms of colds and flu, and stimulates blood circulation. It has also been shown to be a very potent inhibitor of inflammatory compounds that contribute to arthritis and rheumatic conditions. Ginger also reduces blood cholesterol by improving liver function.
Cinnamon can lower LDL cholesterol and has a regulatory effect on blood sugar, making it especially beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon is also known for its antifungal and antibacterial properties, making it effective in fighting yeast infections. It is also known for counteracting bad breath.
Cardamom is known to enhance appetite, improve digestion and provide relief from acidity in the stomach. It is also considered beneficial to the urinary-tract system and is considered a kidney cleanser.
Cloves have been well-known as an all-around healing spice for centuries. They are reputed to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiseptic properties. They're also known to heal ailments of the digestive system and promote good digestion as well as metabolism.
Black Pepper is a powerful anti-oxidant. It is known to improve digestion and promote intestinal health. It is also effective in providing relief for nasal congestion and its antibacterial properties make it an effective remedy for respiratory conditions including colds, coughs and flu.