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Masala Chai: What You Need to Know

Masala Chai: What You Need to Know

Masala Chai has been around for centuries, and today is a well-loved beverage that you can get at nearly any coffee shop. Masala Chai is usually a ...

Masala Chai has been around for centuries, and today is a well-loved beverage that you can get at nearly any coffee shop. Masala Chai is usually a cinnamon based black tea with a combination of spices to give it a robust flavor.

What exactly is Masala Chai? Well, it’s not your average Earl Grey tea, that’s for sure. Masala Chai is a beverage that originated in India and has become popular across the globe. In fact, the one we know today doesn’t look anything like the original. The drink is also known to have many health benefits. Let’s get into what makes it so great and what you need to know about the Masala Chai experience.

The Basics

The word ‘chai’ means tea in Hindi. So, when you are ordering a drink at your local coffee shop, ordering a ‘chai tea’ would be ordering a “tea tea.” While we’re at it, “masala” means “spice” in Hindi. So, Masala Chai is a spiced tea. The Masala Chai we know today is milk-based and not served as just a tea bag steeping in hot water. The spiced beverage is a large part of Indian culture and history. In fact, the origin of the sweet beverage is said to be thousands of years old.

When you’re out ordering from a coffee shop, most of the time, you will be getting a regular Chai unless specified otherwise. The chai you may receive will be black tea blended with milk, and the spices won’t be participating. It’s when you order a Masala Chai that the spices come into play and, for lack of a better term, spice things up. 

History

According to lore and historians, the first record of Masala Chai was noted thousands of years ago. The first known use of a variant of the Masala Chai we know and love today was about 5000 years ago, and it was used in Ayurveda for medicinal purposes. 

What’s Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is an ancient holistic healing system that originated in India. The basic belief is that your mind, body, and spirit need to be balanced for good health. It’s considered the oldest healing science. Providing your body with a balance of the good things it needs will keep you healthy.

The chai that was consumed during this time was much different than the one we know today. Essentially, the first chai was not even tea; it was spices brewed in water for medicinal purposes. The tea leaves and milk came much, much later. It probably didn’t taste as good as the one we have now, either. 

Black tea, which is the base of modern chai, was not introduced until around the 1830s. This was when the leaves were combined with the spices. It wasn’t until the 1900s that Masala Chai had widespread popularity. Masala chai stands are commonplace in India, and the drink is a large part of Indian culture. The cinnamon and other spices blended with the tea are said to have many health benefits. The chai we know today didn’t gain popularity all over the place until the 1960s.

Masala chai is a staple on the streets of India, and you can find stands all over. Families have their own recipes and have been sharing them for generations. It’s a part of a health-conscious diet and boosts your immune system. So, if you’re looking to spice things up(pun intended), this is a place to start!

Health Benefits

Masala chai is a blend of spices and black tea, each including various health benefits.

Ginger

Ginger is a staple in Masala Chai and is considered one of the healthiest spices. The most common part of ginger used as a spice is the root. It’s been said to assist with digestion, nausea relief and help fight off the common cold and flu. It’s also said to help with chronic pain in joints as an anti-inflammatory. With health benefits like these, why wouldn’t ginger make an appearance in Masala Chai?

Cinnamon

Cinnamon was once rare and valuable, but nowadays, you can find it at your local grocery store. It has long been thought to have many medicinal properties. For one, it has antioxidants, which are so important for your health. Along with ginger, cinnamon helps keep your joints in good shape with anti-inflammatory properties.  It’s also very flavorful and makes Masala Chai taste good!

Cardamom

This spice has a fresh taste similar to mint. It’s sort of sweet, and, you guessed it, has health benefits. Along with our friend cinnamon, cardamom is packed with antioxidants and can act as a diuretic to relieve high blood pressure. Adding to the list of spices, this has flavor and benefits to back it up.

      Lemon Grass

      This one may look a little out of place with all of the sweet flavors going into Masala Chai. Lemongrass has a light citrus flavor to accompany the sweet in the other ingredients. It’s great for digestion and full of antioxidants.

          Cloves

          Normally found in dishes like curry, cloves are another Masala Chai staple. While this looks amazing, it’s also another beneficial ingredient. Cloves are also full of antioxidants and are said to be anti-inflammatory. They are also full of fiber, which helps with digestion and hunger levels

              Nutmeg

              Along with our other spice friends, nutmeg is packing a healthy punch. It’s said to be a natural pain reliever and is, of course, full of antioxidants. Nutmeg’s health benefits are usually slept on as it is mostly chosen for flavor for desserts and sweet drinks. Its anti-inflammatory properties lend themselves to the theme of this drink, helping with joint and muscle pain, as well.

                These are the staples of a Masala Chai, and there are many other variants off of this combination. The neat thing about Masala Chai is you can create your own blend of spices to get the flavors and benefits you want. This recipe for a health-conscious concoction will promote these health benefits:

                • Immunity boost
                • Inflammation reduction
                • Aid in digestion
                • Many, many antioxidants
                • Pain reliever

                How to Drink It

                Alright, now that we know a bit of the history of Masala Chai, and how good it is for us, how do we drink it? The easiest way to try a chai out would be at a tea or coffee shop. Most mainstream coffee shops will have a chai concentrate on hand and make a drink that way, or steep a black tea bag with spices blended in. However, a traditional chai will not be steeped; it will be simmered. Masala Chai should always be served milky and very sweet.

                There are many brands of chai that come in tea bags or loose leaf you can buy. Or, if you want more control over the blend of spices and health benefits in your Masala Chai, perhaps home brewing is for you. Most people have the basic spices lying around, so all that’s needed is the black tea leaves.

                The typical type of black tea used in a Masala Chai is a Darjeeling. Unlike other teas, traditional Masala Chai is made combining all ingredients together. The spices are ground up and blended, then added with milk and tea leaves. They are simmered together to infuse the spices into the chai. When it smells all delicious, the spices are strained out, and it’s ready to serve.

                If you’re looking for a drink with the health benefits of Masala Chai, plus more, from ingredients like turmeric and Chaga mushrooms, look no further than MUD\WTR. This coffee alternative includes Masala Chai in its ingredients, as well, so you know that you’re getting that same delicious flavor. 

                Milk

                As we have learned, milk is an important part of Masala Chai. A classic chai is made with high-fat milk. You want this thing to be very creamy. Sometimes it’s even made with butter. Chai is not steeped like regular tea, so all of the spices will be simmered in whatever you choose for your base.

                Not everyone can tolerate dairy, so non-dairy options will work as well. Macadamia and oat milks are popular non-dairy substitutes found in chai. If you are very averse to milk, you could try the original method and simmer everything in water to get the benefits of the tea and spices without the creaminess of the milk. It won’t be a tried and true modern Masala Chai, but it’ll do. It could be interesting to compare and contrast the two methods.

                In Summary

                To sum it up, Masala Chai is a versatile type of beverage that can be customized to a drinker’s liking. The drink is amazing for the immune system, and the spices fill it with benefits like antioxidants and fiber. Having control over the spice blend gives you control over the flavor and can be tailored to your liking.

                Be sure to enjoy your Masala Chai hot, with milk, and as sweet as possible. This staple of Indian culture is a health-conscious treat that can be enjoyed year-round. So, snuggle up with a blanket and enjoy the aroma and get healthy with a Masala Chai!

                Sources:

                Link 1 - http://www.teaboard.gov.in/TEABOARDCSM/MTE=

                Link 2 - https://www.thespruceeats.com/the-history-of-masala-chai-tea-765836

                Link 3 - https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/chai-tea


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