In India, Chai tea is much more than a drink: it is a way of life. Wherever you walk, in trains, streets, shops, hotels you will see people drinking this sweet and spicy drink.
If you are visiting someone’s house, there is a 100% chance that they will serve you Chai tea.
Although we call it “Chai tea” in the West, we should simply say “Chai” because this word means “tea” in many countries, including India.
Chai tea culture developed in India from the British Colonization. India began to produce Assam black tea in large quantities for export to England and Hindus began to try black tea with sugar and milk.
But they gave it the magic touch with the addition of ginger, cinnamon and cloves. This mixture in India is called “Masala Chai”.
There are local variations, for example in Kashmir, they use green tea instead of black tea. But the most widespread version of Chai tea and the one we Westerners inherit contains:
- black tea
Add milk to this Chai tea and voilà! We got a Masala Chai.
There is no single way to make Chai tea , not even in India. Each region and family has its own recipes and method of preparation, and these are considered unquestionable. If you’re visiting and they really want to wow you, they’ll serve you their crown jewel – the Masala Chai with a big flake of whipped cream on top.
If you are or want to become a true tealover, it is necessary to know some basic aspects of the necessary ingredients:
1. The tea: As mentioned, the classic Chai tea is based on black tea, but in some regions green tea is used. Recipes using red tea and yerba mate are not uncommon.
Many people assume that the ideal black tea to prepare Chai must be the highest quality and most expensive available. But this is a mistake: in reality, strong, lightly processed black tea is the best for this case. It is the one that can really give body to the drink and whose flavor does not disappear in the presence of spices and milk that could dull it. So for Masala Chai, the stronger the black tea, the better.
2. The milk: for the most traditionalists, the milk must be whole. The more fat it contains, the better, because it is the fat that gets the most power from the spices.
It happens that the aromas and flavors are basically molecules of “benzene ring” and these dissolve much better in alcohol or fats.
Therefore, if you prepare Chai tea with skim milk, you will not perceive as many flavors as with whole milk, but it can be an option for people who find Masala Chai very strong.
3. Spices: cardamom is the most expensive, the rest are very accessible. In India it is a sin not to use them fresh and freshly ground. If the result obtained seems too strong to you, you can add a pinch of a vanilla sprig (or a few drops of extract).
4. The sweetener: In general, Chai tea is drunk with more sugar or sweetener than black or green tea. A really sweet drink has to be obtained. Stevia natural sweetener is the ideal option to achieve a good Masala Chai.
In specialized stores, you can get very good quality Chai Tea bags, such as the excellent Chai Tea , which already contains Stevia. You just need to add hot water, or milk, or cream, or prepare these delicious recipes.
Is Chai tea really healthy or is it pure guilty pleasure?
The taste of Chai tea cannot be described with mere words. It’s rich, warm, comforting and aromatic, spicy, sweet…all at the same time.
The first time you try Chai Tea you will think you have discovered God in a cup. Or to the Devil, because so much pleasure and endorphins can only be associated with those things that make you feel guilty.
But not. Chai tea is really healthy, for a reason Hindus have been drinking it all the time for centuries. Folk wisdom is always sovereign!
Chai tea is a natural diuretic and suppresses appetite during meals. Likewise, the caffeine from black tea is stimulant, which is why it is drunk in India during long working hours.
Fresh ginger root aids digestion, prevents acid reflux, reduces joint pain, and even helps lower blood pressure. If you still think that it is too rich to be healthy, you can be convinced by reading these benefits of Chai tea .
In many Coffee Shops in the United States and Europe, Chai Tea is being imposed as a substitute for coffee or “Café Chai” which is a mixture of both.
Whatever your chosen variety or recipe, you cannot leave this world without trying the (not sinful) delights of this exotic drink.