Chai Tea

Chai tea comes to us from India. It consists of black tea and a rich variety of spices along.  The word chai simply means tea, and this particular tea has a interesting history.

A king in India invented Chai over 5000 years ago.  The Hindus had a system of healing the body using natural substances based on their “hot” or “cold” qualities called Ayurveda.  Chai became part of every healer’s kit as a prescription for many diseases and a body cleanser.  Originally, only the wealthy and royal families had access to chai. 

Chai typically begins with black tea that is brewed strong.  Most recipes use Assam, Ceylon or Darjeeling tea.  Spices added include cloves, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and pepper.  Chai is nearly always sweetened in order to bring out the flavor of the spices (however this was not true with medicinal applications).  Cane sugar, coconut or date sap, brown sugar, honey or molasses all work for adding that sweetness, depending on the culture and personal taste.  Most often chai includes milk flavoring in modern times, and the popular chai latte in coffee houses today has steamed milk added. 

Tea was a late addition to Chai. At first, this was more an herbal infusion than a tea in the true sense of the term. Merchants to improve the value of the product for trade and sale added tealeaves. Today chai can be purchased loose leaf, in tea bags, as a powder mix or as syrup.

In ancient days, people quaffed chai from a chullarh.  A chullarh is a clay cup specifically for serving chai.  The cup simmers over a fire before consumption, then broken and placed back into the earth to become part of it again.  The chullarh is outdated today – now people serve chai even in unremarkable plastic cups that don’t quite offer the same charm and symbolism. 

The benefits of drinking Chai are many.  Tea is an antioxidant and rids the body of toxins.  Most of the spices boost the immune system.  Ginger prevents colds, strengthens the reparatory system and aids in digestion.  Cloves help the body regain heat when ill and cinnamon regulates blood sugar.  Cardamom gets rid of gas and aids in digestion. 

Chai is served in many restaurants and coffee houses cold, hot and even frozen.  It comes as plain tea or as a latte.  Chai is currently not limited to a black tea base, but also made with green or herbal teas.  Many culinary recipes use chai including as part of frosting for cakes.  People still drink Chai for health purposes, but tea lovers also enjoy it more for the flavor with the benefits that just happen to come along.   

Unity Teapots sells fine Asian tea ware, and is a great place to shop for a kyusu, a cast iron teapot, or a Yixing teapot.

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