The story of Chai is extensive yet exotic, like the brew itself! This creamy, spicy, and aromatic tea carries a centuries-old heritage, and the tale is as delicious as the sips of this incredible tea. The word "chai" is the Hindi equivalent of the Chinese word "cha," which is the word for tea. In this context, the Hindi word "chai" commonly refers to a mixture of spices brewed into a beverage resembling tea. Every culture, community, and family has its unique chai recipe, which results in many different types of chai. However, black tea combined with potent spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, and black peppercorns is typically the conventional list of ingredients for a spiced tea blend. Usually, milk and sugar come as core ingredients apart from the tea and spices. Collectively this creates a rich, creamy, and flavorful cup of chai.
As much as its flavor, chai has many health benefits that we can learn about. Antioxidants, including catechins and theaflavins, are abundant in chai. These can protect us against oxidative stress and help prevent cancer and other diseases. Chai may also include calcium, depending on its recipe and ingredients. This tea is a flavorful drink that can aid in weight loss, digestion, lower blood sugar levels, and heart health. It's also important to note that the benefits are related to the chai's ingredients rather than the tea itself. Studies have also revealed that ingredients such as cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves have additional antibacterial benefits, which can shield against bacterial infections that cause stomach issues.
What is Chai exactly?
There are various types of tea in the tea world, and our beloved chai tea is associated with only one type: black tea. Black tea, milk, sugar, and spices are the compulsory ingredients in a cup of chai. The most widely used spices are cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, black pepper, and cloves. However, other well-liked possibilities include star anise, coriander seeds, and peppercorns. Chai or Masala Chai is an authentic Indian tea. However, this tea habit is now widespread in many nations, with many alterations to the original recipe. There are thousands of different types of chai around the globe, despite being frequently associated with India.
History of Chai
India's national beverage is chai spice tea. You may find individuals sipping this tea from the slums to the high rises all around the country. Tea is an essential component of social gatherings. This brew is present at events ranging from a casual drink with friends to wedding receptions and funerals.
According to history, the spiced tea known as Chai originated in India when a king desired a soothing beverage. With their strong linkages in Ayurveda, a drink has been formulated with carefully chosen spices. Initially, this drink did not have tea leaves as an ingredient. The digestive benefits of black pepper, ginger, and the respiratory benefits of cinnamon were prominent in this ancient formula. Furthermore, cloves and cardamom in it could prevent infections while enhancing mood and vigor.
Thousands of years later, with the influence of the West, this drink recipe began to evolve into the chai that we see today. During British colonial control, the tea's modern iteration—using loose leaf black tea—became increasingly popular. China had a monopoly on the production of tea at the time. Great Britain sought to break the monopoly by cultivating tea in its colonies. India's geography made it the ideal site to grow and harvest tea plantations. As a result, Britain sent specialists to India to impart knowledge on how to cultivate tea to the natives. Slowly the natives picked this habit of drinking tea, and started infusing tea leaves with their traditional Ayurveda spice brew. This fusion eventually resulted in an amazingly flavorful tea that we enjoy today as "chai" or Masala chai.
What are the different types of Chai?
Below are a few of the most prominent and well-liked types of chai that are available worldwide. There are thousands of different varieties of chai, including some fully oxidized teas like black teas or some other herbals like rooibos.
As was already mentioned, chai describes only a style of tea and not a specific leaf or brewing method. Tea comes in a variety of fantastic flavors from many cultures. The best flavors you can make at home or discover at a delicious nearby restaurant are as follows,
Bombay chai is a unique concoction of hearty and flavorful spices. Bombay chai is the ideal Chai version for everyone. It combines the traditional Assam black tea with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
Black tea is a core component in making ginger chai, containing ginger and other accent spices such as green cardamom. In addition, milk and sugar, or honey, is added to this healthy concoction.
In lemongrass chai, black tea leaves are soaked with cooked lemongrass. Then, tea makers combine sugar and milk with the brew to give it a creamier texture. Lemon juice is also a frequent ingredient in this delicious brew.
Tulsi, sometimes called "holy basil," is the base ingredient in tulsi chai instead of the usual black tea. Along with tulsi, other spices such as cardamom, ginger, turmeric, cloves, star anise, and peppercorns are the remaining ingredients in this spicy component. Apart from these ingredients, it is a common practice to use milk and sweetener to improve its overall texture.
In Kolkata India, Lebu chai, commonly known as lemon tea, is particularly well-liked. The main ingredients are black tea, ground ginger, black salt (Kala Namak), lemon juice, and sugar. Although it is not customary, milk can also be a part of this recipe, depending on personal preference.
Masala Chai: The most common type of chai
Most people associate the word "chai" to identify masala chai. This confusion mainly comes from unfamiliar language terms, where the Indian language uses the term masala to identify spices. However, the most original tea recipe that combines black tea, spices, milk, and sweetener, is known as masala chai, or just chai. Ground ginger, cloves, black peppercorns, cinnamon, and green cardamom are the main ingredients in masala chai spice mix. Combine these with black tea, sugar or honey, and milk for a delicious masala chai.
Sulaimani Chai: The arabic version among the types of chai
As recorded in history, Sulaimani tea originated in the kingdom of Arab with dates and black pepper being key components. Arab traders took this beverage to India, where it began to evolve. Slowly, the recipe expanded by adding local spices, sugar, and tea which marks the origin of Sulaimani Chai, as we enjoy today. With a garnish of a mint leaf, Sulaimani tea combines black tea, lemon, black pepper, cardamom, and a small amount of rock salt. Sometimes saffron is also included in the tea for an extra luxurious vibe.
Cardamom chai is as the name suggests! The ingredients for this tea include only black tea, ground cardamom, milk, and sugar. With just that, you can enjoy a delicious cup of cardamom chai.
The Himalayas are where butter tea primarily comes from. Black tea, yak butter, and salt are the core ingredients to make this rather unusual yet buttery brew. Some people find its unsweetened flavor repulsive, while others adore its savory, distinctive flavor.
Green tea, green cardamom, cinnamon, saffron, clove, star anise, and dried rose petals and almonds are the core ingredients in this tea. It is strained and served without milk but with sugar.
Components of Chai
No one recipe defines the concept of Chai. Because traditional chai drinks can differ from town to town and family to family. However, the following ingredient categories are often present in the beverage and the many different types of chai.
Assam and Darjeeling are the most widely used Indian black teas for chai bases. Apart from those, strong and full-bodied Ceylon black teas, Kenyan black teas, the South American yerba mate, the South African red rooibos, and other forms of green tea are also used to make modern versions of chai. Some contemporary tea makers create chai fusions entirely with herbals and species to create caffeine-free versions of chai.
Traditional tea sweeteners include white sugar, brown sugar, and honey. But you may also use demerara, turbinado, or coconut sugar. In some parts of India, jaggery, an unprocessed cane sugar type, is also used as a sweetener in chai.
Buffalo milk is usually the "milk" component in Indian tea. However, the more familiar westernized chai variants use cow's milk or dairy substitutes such as soy, almond, and coconut milk. Other types of chai may contain yak or goat milk as well. In some chai recipes, it is customary to steep tea-spice mix in hot water then the milk comes later to make it creamier. In some variations, the chai spices and tea leaves are simmered in milk or a water/milk blend.
Chai's "masala," or blend of spices, will differ according to the locale, climate, and cultural preferences. Cardamom, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and black peppercorns were the main chai spices in the past, and they were all easily accessible in India. Some classic recipes may additionally use fennel, star anise, vanilla, nutmeg, mace, bay leaf, allspice, cacao, and saffron. These additional spices gained popularity as ingredients as chai spread to the west. Some recipes may also call for even coriander and cumin as ingredients in the spice mix. The bottom line is that there is no fixed recipe for making chai. It could all depend on the mastery and creativity of the tea maker.
Final Thoughts: The world of chai is so diverse!
Within just one cup, chai offers a vast array of flavors. The different types of chais provide different tastes and moods; as tea lovers, we love to embrace this versatility. From its simple origin, this iconic brew has traveled across the world to please each individual uniquely. You could even learn to create your own version of this historical brew! Sip a cup of your favorite chai, and even try mixing spices to see what amazing formulas you can come up with.