What is Chai Tea?
Chai Tea is a delicious Indian spiced tea, widespread in Nepal and Tibet as well, that many in the West are now discovering.
Thanks to coffee shops and the spread of Indian culture in the West, Chai Tea now takes its place along Lattes and Espressos as a beverage of choice when you want to relax during your stressful life.
Chai Tea can also be enjoyed at home. In fact, what you can drink at home can easily surpass what you can get from your local coffee shop.
What is popularly known as “Chai Tea” is an altered version of the original Indian Masala Chai, (sometimes marketed as Bombay Chai as well). “Chai” itself means “tea”, so “chai tea” is in fact a “pleonasm”, or a redundancy (like “reverse back” or “free gift”). “Spiced Chai Tea” is a triple pleonasm, and “Spiced Chai Tea with Milk” is quadrupled, but who are we to nitpick?
Chai Tea Benefits
Indians grew tea leaves for medicinal purposes for centuries, but not for recreational consumption (like their Chinese neighbors). (The Assam region of India is one of only two areas in the world where the tea plant is native.)
Indeed this is one of the great Chai Tea Benefits, in that masala chai is not only a great tasting drink, but its ingredients are actually medicinal, so the health benefits are substantial. Indeed, many chai tea recipes are derived from ancient Indian Ayurvedic medical texts.
How to Make Chai Tea
When the Indians finally adopted black tea as a recreational drink (after encouragement by the British) they made it into something their own.
Instead of just steeping the tea leaves in boiling water like the Chinese, or adding a little milk and sugar like the British, the Indians added much more milk (in fact, it can be sometimes all milk), more sugar, and a variety of Indian spices (that is the “Masala” part of it) – cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, and others from different regions (very typically Indian!).
Instead of steeping the tea leaves and spices in already-boiled water, with chai tea you bring everything to a boil together, simmer and let the whole thing sit.
Though it may sound a little difficult, it is easy to learn how to make chai tea. The basic structure is the same, but everybody’s Chai Tea Recipe is unique (I think that is really an Indian philosophy!).
The result is a totally different drink from the original black tea beverage. Tasty, rich, with a wide variety of combinations and permutations.
The Spread of Chai Tea outside of India
Now that Chai Tea has moved West, new variations are only to be expected. Popular, delicious innovations include:
Forms of Chai Tea
There have been interesting new Masala Chai Tea blends which have added ingredients for health concerns as well. Examples include
- Rooibos Chai (using South African red bush herbal tea)
- Yerba Mate Chai (using South American Yerba Mate)
- Tulsi Chai (using the revered Indian Holy Basil plant)
- Chai Green Tea
- Decaffeinated Chai
- Organic Chai Tea
All of this means that you can enjoy a wide variety of Chai Tea in the comfort of your home at any time, for less money, more health benefits, and with a higher quality.
Explore the links, try the recipes, and try some new flavors. Let us know what you think.