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Chai: Health Benefits, Preparation and Masala Chai Recipe
Chai - Tea
What is chai?
Chai is pronounced ch - eye.
The word chai means tea.
Chai comes from the Persian form - chay. This is a derivative of the Mandarin Chinese form - chá.
Chai is also known as, masala chai. Masala chai translates to mixed black tea. When we say chai in the United States, we are usually referring to masala chai. Otherwise, we simply say tea.
What is masala chai? This variation of chai is a fragrant, spiced black tea that originated in India. Traditionally, masala chai is a rich blend of black tea, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, cloves and star anise. It has a relaxing and smooth flavor that is easy on the palate. Chai sweetly awakens the senses with its rich aroma.
Common ingredients in masala tea
Where is Chai From?
Chai is commonly found in India. Although chai originated in India its creation was due to the promotion of black tea by the British-owned Indian Tea Company sometime around the 1830's. The English promoted its consumption and preparation with milk and sugar. Eventually chai recipes evolved and included the various aromatic spices used today.
Chai is now commercially available and can be prepared by steeping a teabag. However, homemade chai is prepared in its raw form, strained and served.
Chai originated in India.
The British owned the Indian Tea Company. It is believed the British introduced milk and sugar to black tea, which later evolved into masala chai.
The chai served in the United States is a variation of masala chai.
Is Masala Chai Good for You? Yes!
A Description of Chai: What are the Benefits and Ingredients of Chai?
Masala chai's multiple ingredients evoke its various benefits, color and flavor.
What does masala chai taste like?
Flavor - The closest flavor I can compare chai to would be creamy mulled cider without the apple flavor. The flavor is not extremely strong, but it is definitely rich. The undertones of cinnamon, anise and cloves blend nicely with the black tea, ginger and other flavors. Neither of the flavors overpower the other; instead, they compliment each other beautifully. Also, masala chai does not have the telltale leafy after taste of other teas.
What does chai look like?
Color - Prepared chai looks very similar to coffee with cream.
What are the benefits of chai tea?
The various ingredients of chai are beneficial in their own right. Here are just a few of the multiple health benefits of these ingredients.
- Reduces risk of heart disease
- Effective antioxidant
- Improves recovery after strenuous exercise
- Reduces inflammation after exercise
- Improves upset stomach
- May reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
- May reduce blood sugar, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Rids the bacteria that causes bad breath
Black Pepper (peppercorns):
- Improves absorption of vitamins
- Contains potassium, zinc, manganese and iron
- Stimulates the digestive system
- Eases stomach cramps
- Encourages detoxification
- Natural analgesic
- Soothes the respiratory system
- Improves digestion
- Antimicrobial qualities
- Relieves congestion
Random fact - Did you know that the influenza drug Tamiflu contains star anise?
HubPages Author, Rajan Jolly shares how chai is a part of his Indian culture.
Rajan, when do you drink chai?
Chai is a daily affair in Indian households, almost amounting to a ritual.
The day starts off with a cup of hot chai. Some people prefer to take it before getting up from the bed and want their BED TEA before they do anything. Whether one takes bed tea or not, chai is the first morning drink in an Indian household. After this morning chai is done with, one gets on with the household work or gets ready for going to work. Either way, a cup of chai is again taken when it's time for breakfast.
In offices, those having shops (stores), workers on the job in factories or elsewhere, even those working in government offices and the like, it is a customary practice to drink chai once at around 11 AM and then at about 3.30 PM. Those who are at home, whether they are working or not, have made it a practice of having chai once at about 11 AM and then after their work or afternoon siesta at around 5 PM. Back home from work or otherwise a hot cup of chai is again enjoyed at about 7 PM.
How many cups of chai do you have daily?
On an average, a person consumes about five cups of Chai daily at the minimum.
During the day if one has guests, its time for tea again or if one is visiting friends, one is offered tea.
Do you enjoy any pastries or biscuits with your chai?
Tea at home is normally had with some biscuits. In offices, tea is a standalone affair. While having guests or visiting, along with tea we add a few other snacks like biscuits, sponge cakes, potato patties, parkoa, etc. are offered.
How do you normally prepare chai?
Some people prefer to use tea bags instead by dropping a tea bag or two in a hot cup of water, let it stand for a few minutes before adding sugar and milk. If they so prefer, they make do with black chai prepared this way.
However, chai made and drunk this way is only by a handful of people while the majority go for chai prepared in the way described a little late, below.
Chai is made at roadside tea stalls/vendors and in restaurants all over India. Passers-by, nearby offices, shops and other establishments are their regular customers.
Though everyone has his own way of preparing chai, it is most commonly made in the way given below, especially all over Mumbai. In Mumbai, there is a practice of drinking Cut Chai, which is nothing but tea made the usual way but filled just half in a glass . Since it is not a full glass, it is called cut chai.
Thank you for your contributions Rajan.
As a special treat, Rajan has shared his masala chai recipe below as well as a few variations.
Rajan's Variations for Chai
For Adrak chai, replace the masala mixture with a 1/2" piece of crushed Ginger(Adrak).
For Tulsi chai, replace the masala mixture with Tulsi (Holy basil) about 6-7 finely cut leaves.
Add a pinch of crushed cardamom in both cases above.
Rajan's Recipe for North Indian Masala Chai
Crush the cloves, cardamoms, peppercorns and cinnamon stick coarsely. This constitutes the masala (spice) mixture.
In a pan add 2 cups of water and this masala mixture.Bring to a boil.
Add sugar and tea leaves. Simmer till the water gets a good deep color.
Add milk and bring to another boil. Simmer till tea feels a bit thick and throws off a good aroma (usually a couple of minutes).
Strain. Serve hot.
A Simple and Modern Chai Recipe
- 1 teabag of Tazo organic chai
- milk or creamer
Bring 1 cup of water to a boil
Steep chai teabag in water for 3 - 5 minutes
Add a splash of milk (about 1 tbsp)
Add sweetener to taste (I use one packet of splenda)
Sit back and enjoy the aroma and the flavor.
Ingredients - Tazo's organic chai contains black tea, ginger, black pepper, cardamon, cloves, cinnamon bark and star anise.
References and Clinical Studies
Health Benefits of Chai Ingredients
Black Tea and Heart Disease - "black and green tea improve the risk factors for heart disease by both hypolipemic and antioxidant mechanisms and possibly a fibrinolytic effect"
Black tea is an effective antioxidant - "Theaflavins in Black Tea and Catechins in Green Tea Are Equally Effective Antioxidants"
Improves anaerobic recovery and reduces inflammation - "The effects of theaflavin-enriched black tea extract on muscle soreness, oxidative stress, inflammation, and endocrine responses to acute anaerobic interval training: a randomized, double-blind, crossover study"
Inhibits tumor growth in prostate cancer - Benefits of whole ginger extract in prostate cancer
Positive antioxidant effects in the reduction of skin cancer - Antioxidative effects of the spice cardamom against non-melanoma skin cancer by modulating nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2 and NF-κB signaling pathways
Has anesthetic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, and antiviral actions - Molecular targets and health benefits of cinnamon
Promotes a healthy nervous system and is also known to contain anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties - There is suggestive evidence that black pepper piperine may have nervous system benefits and may influence body energy usage in rats. Preliminary evidence in cell culture studies suggests that black pepper contains antioxidant constituents and possesses anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties
My heartfelt appreciation goes out to Rajan Jolly.
Thank you Rajan, for sharing a bit of your culture with us. Chai is certainly a big part of your daily life at home, socially and in the work place. My sincerest gratitude for bringing authentic cultural awareness to this hub. Also, I'm honored to share your chai recipes with our readers. You are a treasure of knowledge and a valued friend on HubPages.
With respect and gratitude, Marisa
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© 2012 Marisa Hammond Olivares