The Magic of Chai: India’s Spicy-Sweet Tea

What is ‘Chai’ and Is It Delicious? 

A cup of chai is a cup of tea. But it is said that it should not be referred to as chai tea. The drink is truly unique due to the intense flavors that few other teas can compare.

“Chai tea” is better known as masala chai, ‘masala’ meaning spices. There is no known standard for the recipe, but it typically involves brewing a strong loose black tea  with warming spices like cardamom, ginger, and nutmeg. There are other variations like with cinnamon, saffron, rose, fennel, peppercorn, clove, and star anise. 

Legend has it that masala chai began 5,000 years ago in an ancient royal court in India. It is said that a king created it as a cleansing, vivifying Ayurvedic beverage. It was served hot or cold as a remedy for mild ailments, and it was spicy-sweet.  In 1835, the British set up tea farms in Assam, India . It was the chai we know today, complete with spices, milk, sweetener, and tea. But it was then an export and was too expensive for most Indians. In the early 1900s, the British-owned Indian Tea Association began to promote Indian tea consumption within India. To cut costs, vendors do not use expensive black tea leaves, but milk, sugar, and spices to keep them flavorful. From then, masala chai became popular. 

Today, the American palate can appreciate the famous masala tea as the spiciness has been pared down. Chai today still consists of black tea, a masala spice blend, milk, and a sweetener. Assam black tea, from the tea-growing state of Assam, India, is the foundation of the standard cup of chai in the Indian subcontinent. Whole milk is recommended as dairy. To achieve the authentic sweetness levels, a teaspoon of unrefined cane sugar or regular white sugar must be added. The main flavor difference, however, lies in the spices.

The spices used differ in Indian households. Typically, a mix of cardamom with fresh-ground cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and star anise are used. Less common are pepper, coriander, nutmeg and fennel. Chai blends don’t use all the spice ingredients at once, and proportions differ between recipes. While chai is also available in pre-packaged boxes at supermarkets, one can always concoct one’s own according to one’s preference in spiciness.

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Relaxing With Chai in Bellevue

When you come to MokSHA, your favorite Indian restaurant in Bellevue, relax with a special blend of our chai. You can enjoy our hot masala chai or a cocktail called Old Monk Chai, made from Indian old monk rum, chai tea, and spices.