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Chai Tea History and Traditions

Chai Tea History

Does Chai Tea Heal?

The history of chai tea dates back 5,000 years to the ancient courts of Siam and India. Legend has it that a king concocted a recipe in a quest to create a healing beverage. After that, authentic chai tea was used in the healing tradition of “ayurveda” alternative medicine. Along with massage, herbs, yoga and other healing elements, chai tea was consumed to naturally heal the body beginning in the Vedic period in India. The popularity of chai tea spread throughout South Asia and far into the Western World, continuing its growth today. However, it does contain trace amounts of caffeine and milk, so people with sensitivity to caffeine or who are lactose intolerant should pass.

Vanilla Chai Tea

Masala chai tea can combine many flavors including peppercorn, cardamom, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and star anise. These spices balance with the milk and a sweetener like sugar, honey or brown sugar, and then strengthened with a strong black tea. Recipes vary over broad spectrums because there are so many flavors and variables within the tea, and because the tea has permeated so many cultures in the more than 5,000 years it has existed.

For one twist on the traditional chai tea recipe, try the vanilla chai recipe below.

3 cardamom pods

3 whole cloves

3 whole allspice

1 whole vanilla bean

1/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon black tea like Assum or Darjeeling

4 cups water

1 cup milk (try soy for a richer taste)

Boil all spices with water in a saucepan. Cover and let simmer for five minutes. Add milk and honey, and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and add tea. Let steep 3 minutes, and strain. Serve immediately.

Chai Tea Recipe

This authentic chai tea recipe serves four.

4 black peppercorns

1 stick of cinnamon

6 green cardamom pods

6 cloves

1 inch ginger root, sliced and peeled

1 tablespoon loose black tea or 2 black tea bags

3 cups water

1 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons sugar, preferably dark brown

Put the spices together in a saucepan with the water and bring to a rolling boil. Cover, and let simmer 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let steep 10 minutes. Return to a boil. Remove from heat and add the tea, let steep 3 to 5 minutes. Strain mixture and return to saucepan. Add milk and sugar and stir for one minute over low heat. Serve immediately.

Chai Tea Across India

How do I know chai is Fair Trade?

India is a large country with regions each having carved out a unique cultural identity, and that is very apparent in how they prepare, serve and enjoy chai.

Chai in northern India is closest to the flavors and texture most outsiders associate with Indian chai tea. It is creamy, sweet and spiced, featuring hints of cinnamon, pepper, cardamom and ginger.

Chai in eastern India is noted for the clay cups in which it is served. The clay adds an earthy flavor that underlies the spicy overtones.

In southern India, chai is served with a creamy froth created when the chai is vigorously poured between glasses.

There is another distinguished chai, and that is Irani Chai. This strong and creamy chai is made from traditional Iranian tea and is available at the many Irani cafes that dot Indian city streets. While the number of traditional Irani cafes has dwindled, they are still quite popular in the city of Hyderabad.

Chai Tea Explained

What is in chai tea?

Chai tea comes from the Indian subcontinent where "chai" is simply the generic term for "tea" in Hindi. There is nothing generic, though, about chai tea. Recipes vary and are passed down through families as heritage, but the basic ingredients of chai tea are a black tea, spices, sweeteners and a mix of water and milk. Chai tea layers spices like cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, peppercorns and cloves over a strong black tea like Assum. The tea is boiled with a mixture of one-quarter to one-half parts whole milk to water that creates a strong flavor without bitter tannins. Plain sugar can be added for sweetener, although some recipes call for honey, brown sugar, coconut and even Jaggery. Traditional chai tea is served warm, but modern versions span a wide variety and include hot, cold and even frozen teas. Enjoy!

Chai Tea Latte

Chai tea is known for its velvety texture and creamy taste. For a cup of chai that is extra rich, try a chai latte instead. While most chai tea has milk in it, a chai latte uses steamed milk instead of milk boiled with water, in addition to the spices and the tea leaves.

If you have an espresso machine, try this frothy and delicious recipe.

½ inch stick cinnamon

8 whole cloves

8 cardamom pods

¼ inch slices ginger root

3 teaspoons black tea like Darjeeling or Assum

6 teaspoons sugar

1 ½ cups water

2/3 cup milk

Directions: Bring spices with 1 ½ cups water to a boil. Cover and let simmer on low heat for ten minutes. Add sugar and tealeaves, and let steep for three minutes. Strain. Add 2/3 cup steamed milk from an espresso machine and serve immediately.

Kashmiri Chai

What is organic chai tea?

Another popular chai with some unusual ingredients is the Kashmiri chai. Sometimes referred to as nun chai or shir chai, this savory drink combines the traditional chai elements of cardamom, cinnamon and milk with salt and baking soda bicarbonate, which provides for a unique pink color.

Kawah is an offshoot of Kashmiri chai, and it combines green tea with cardamom, saffron, cinnamon and crushed almonds or walnuts. The Kashmiri people often serve this treat at religious ceremonies, including marriage feasts and festivals.

Like many chais, Kashmiri chai is often served from a heated-metal container called a samovar. These urn-shaped vessels originated in Russia, before appearing in central Asia. Throughout history, artisans often decorate samovars with elaborate designs, not unlike the beautiful tea kettles of the far east.

Chocolate Chai Tea Recipe

Masala chai tea is decadent and smooth, with underlying spices to entice the senses. It is great for a morning pick-me-up or a delicious treat at the end of the day. How can you make chai tea even more luscious? Just add chocolate. Follow the recipe below for chocolate chai tea.

½ inch stick cinnamon

8 whole cloves

8 cardamom pods

¼ inch slices ginger root

3 teaspoons black tea like Darjeeling or Assum

6 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ½ cups water

2/3 cup milk

Whipped cream

Bring spices and 1 ½ cups water to a boil on the stove top in a saucepan. Cover and let simmer on low heat for ten minutes. Add the sugar, cocoa and milk and bring the mixture back to a simmer. Turn off the heat, add the tealeaves and let steep for three minutes. Strain. Serve immediately with a stick of cinnamon and whipped cream on top.

Chai Tea Explained

What is in chai tea?

Chai tea comes from the Indian subcontinent where "chai" is simply the generic term for "tea" in Hindi. There is nothing generic, though, about chai tea. Recipes vary and are passed down through families as heritage, but the basic ingredients of chai tea are a black tea, spices, sweeteners and a mix of water and milk. Chai tea layers spices like cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, peppercorns and cloves over a strong black tea like Assum. The tea is boiled with a mixture of one-quarter to one-half parts whole milk to water that creates a strong flavor without bitter tannins. Plain sugar can be added for sweetener, although some recipes call for honey, brown sugar, coconut and even Jaggery. Traditional chai tea is served warm, but modern versions span a wide variety and include hot, cold and even frozen teas. Enjoy!

Chai Tea History

Does Chai Tea Heal?

The history of chai tea dates back 5,000 years to the ancient courts of Siam and India. Legend has it that a king concocted a recipe in a quest to create a healing beverage. After that, authentic chai tea was used in the healing tradition of “ayurveda” alternative medicine. Along with massage, herbs, yoga and other healing elements, chai tea was consumed to naturally heal the body beginning in the Vedic period in India. The popularity of chai tea spread throughout South Asia and far into the Western World, continuing its growth today. However, can it heal?

The answer is maybe. The basic ingredient of chai tea, black tea, has antioxidants that can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Antioxidants also promote heart health and research suggests they might help prevent some cancers. However, it does contain trace amounts of caffeine and milk, so people with sensitivity to caffeine or who are lactose intolerant should pass.

Chai Tea Recipe

This authentic chai tea recipe serves four.

4 black peppercorns

1 stick of cinnamon

6 green cardamom pods

6 cloves

1 inch ginger root, sliced and peeled

1 tablespoon loose black tea or 2 black tea bags

3 cups water

1 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons sugar, preferably dark brown

Put the spices together in a saucepan with the water and bring to a rolling boil. Cover, and let simmer 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let steep 10 minutes. Return to a boil. Remove from heat and add the tea, let steep 3 to 5 minutes. Strain mixture and return to saucepan. Add milk and sugar and stir for one minute over low heat. Serve immediately.

Chai Tea Across India

How do I know chai is Fair Trade?

India is a large country with regions each having carved out a unique cultural identity, and that is very apparent in how they prepare, serve and enjoy chai.

Chai in northern India is closest to the flavors and texture most outsiders associate with Indian chai tea. It is creamy, sweet and spiced, featuring hints of cinnamon, pepper, cardamom and ginger.

Chai in eastern India is noted for the clay cups in which it is served. The clay adds an earthy flavor that underlies the spicy overtones.

In southern India, chai is served with a creamy froth created when the chai is vigorously poured between glasses.

There is another distinguished chai, and that is Irani Chai. This strong and creamy chai is made from traditional Iranian tea and is available at the many Irani cafes that dot Indian city streets. While the number of traditional Irani cafes has dwindled, they are still quite popular in the city of Hyderabad.

Kashmiri Chai

What is organic chai tea?

Another popular chai with some unusual ingredients is the Kashmiri chai. Sometimes referred to as nun chai or shir chai, this savory drink combines the traditional chai elements of cardamom, cinnamon and milk with salt and baking soda bicarbonate, which provides for a unique pink color.

Kawah is an offshoot of Kashmiri chai, and it combines green tea with cardamom, saffron, cinnamon and crushed almonds or walnuts. The Kashmiri people often serve this treat at religious ceremonies, including marriage feasts and festivals.

Like many chais, Kashmiri chai is often served from a heated-metal container called a samovar. These urn-shaped vessels originated in Russia, before appearing in central Asia. Throughout history, artisans often decorate samovars with elaborate designs, not unlike the beautiful tea kettles of the far east.

Chai Tea Latte

Chai tea is known for its velvety texture and creamy taste. For a cup of chai that is extra rich, try a chai latte instead. While most chai tea has milk in it, a chai latte uses steamed milk instead of milk boiled with water, in addition to the spices and the tea leaves.

If you have an espresso machine, try this frothy and delicious recipe.

½ inch stick cinnamon

8 whole cloves

8 cardamom pods

¼ inch slices ginger root

3 teaspoons black tea like Darjeeling or Assum

6 teaspoons sugar

1 ½ cups water

2/3 cup milk

Directions: Bring spices with 1 ½ cups water to a boil. Cover and let simmer on low heat for ten minutes. Add sugar and tealeaves, and let steep for three minutes. Strain. Add 2/3 cup steamed milk from an espresso machine and serve immediately.

Chocolate Chai Tea Recipe

Masala chai tea is decadent and smooth, with underlying spices to entice the senses. It is great for a morning pick-me-up or a delicious treat at the end of the day. How can you make chai tea even more luscious? Just add chocolate. Follow the recipe below for chocolate chai tea.

½ inch stick cinnamon

8 whole cloves

8 cardamom pods

¼ inch slices ginger root

3 teaspoons black tea like Darjeeling or Assum

6 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ½ cups water

2/3 cup milk

Whipped cream

Bring spices and 1 ½ cups water to a boil on the stove top in a saucepan. Cover and let simmer on low heat for ten minutes. Add the sugar, cocoa and milk and bring the mixture back to a simmer. Turn off the heat, add the tealeaves and let steep for three minutes. Strain. Serve immediately with a stick of cinnamon and whipped cream on top.

Vanilla Chai Tea

Masala chai tea can combine many flavors including peppercorn, cardamom, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and star anise. These spices balance with the milk and a sweetener like sugar, honey or brown sugar, and then strengthened with a strong black tea. Recipes vary over broad spectrums because there are so many flavors and variables within the tea, and because the tea has permeated so many cultures in the more than 5,000 years it has existed.

For one twist on the traditional chai tea recipe, try the vanilla chai recipe below.

3 cardamom pods

3 whole cloves

3 whole allspice

1 whole vanilla bean

1/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon black tea like Assum or Darjeeling

4 cups water

1 cup milk (try soy for a richer taste)

Boil all spices with water in a saucepan. Cover and let simmer for five minutes. Add milk and honey, and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and add tea. Let steep 3 minutes, and strain. Serve immediately.

Chai Tea and Pregnancy

There has been much debate about chai tea and pregnancy, with many different doctors voicing opinions. Here are two important facts:

  • Caffeine does cross the placenta to reach the fetus, which cannot metabolize caffeine like an adult can.
  • Healthcare professionals vary on exactly how much caffeine is safe for a baby, especially in the first trimester, but the FDA recommends using caution with caffeine, if not eliminating it altogether.
Chai tea, when made with most black teas, contains caffeine. However, herbal teas are safe because they are caffeine-free. Herbal teas are made from roots, berries, flowers, seeds and plant leaves. There are plenty of bagged herbal caffeine-free chai teas on the market, as well as loose-leaf caffeine-free black tea.

Drinking herbal chai can be a good source of nutrients like calcium, magnesium and iron, as well as work to soothe and calm expectant mothers. Consult your doctor for more information on herbal teas and pregnancy.

Benefits of Chai Tea

Traditional chai tea is rich with nutrients and antioxidants to strengthen your immune system and lower blood pressure, and they may even help flower your risk to some cancers. What is in it that is so powerful? The truth is, everything in it is powerful. Each ingredient—and there are many—has different benefits that combine to create a powerful cup of tea.

To begin, black tea packs powerful antioxidants, and studies show these molecules help fight cancer and prevent coronary heart disease. The masalas, or spices, also pack important health benefits. Ginger fights off colds and flus, and is good for the digestive and respiratory system. Cloves boost the immune system and fight illness by regenerating heat in the body. Cinnamon is a stimulant and cardamom is said to give clarity and precision to the mind. Lastly, fennel is good for soothing the digestive system.

Depending on what masalas you add to your tea, you can add more benefits to your cup. Drink up!