Through the Fire
I love a good cup of tea. One of my favorites is chai. Chai is simply the word for tea in many Eurasian languages. What we in America have come to know as Chai is more accurately, masala Chai, originating in India. There are likely as many variations on chai as there are villages in India where they drink it. Essentially, it is a decoction of black tea, milk, sweetener, and a variety of spices. The spices most commonly are cardamom, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves with of course regional variations as well as personal preference variations. I like mine gingery and peppery. Fenugreek is another less common addition.
Of course America loves its cultural appropriation and one can find chai “lattés” everywhere these days. They are not your Indian chai wallah (maker/seller)’s tea. They are made with all the different kinds of non dairy “milk” we enjoy, black tea, green tea, no tea, sweetened with honey, agave, stevia, no sweetener.
I haven’t been to India so I haven’t ever had truly authentic original chai. I however have had much made by people who know their authentic chai, so as close as I can get. I can’t drink cow’s milk without some unpleasant consequences so I am guilty of liking it with almond milk. I don’t like it sweetened. I find the sweetness of the spices enough for me. And, I usually have it without any actual tea in it. So I guess I drink American masala chai. Cultural appropriation – taking things we like from another culture and changing it to our liking/needs – is an interesting subject. Is it adopting a delicious tea from another country and changing it up always a bad thing ? I don’t know. What do you think ?
In researching Chai, I found a beautiful blog about it. Please go visit chaiwallahsofindia.com for some beautiful photographs and wonderful stories.
from Osho News
So, why drink Chai other than the taste ? Granted, the taste is not for everyone. It’s spicy!
All of the ingredients have benefits. Let’s take a look.
Black tea is loaded with antioxidants, which slow oxidative damage to our cells. Think rust, what rust does to metal. We don’t want this action in our body. There are also some thoughts about tea protecting our “good” cholesterol.
Ginger is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It aids digestion and supports immunity.
Cardamom is also good for digestion and immunity.
Cinnamom is also good for digestion and helps regulate blood sugar.
Clove is an analgesic ( pain reliever).
Black pepper is also good for digestion. ( are you seeing the theme here ?) and may have some good effect on our metabolism.
You won’t be surprised to know that I have never followed a recipe when I’ve made Chai. I also have a lovely friend who has been making it for me lately. Plus, in my local grocery store, I can find a very delicious tea and spice blend that I most often use. I did find this recipe for those who want one, one that has family history to it. The author says that chai is a fairly new addition to Indian culture. They used to primarily drink coffee but when the British took over, they took over the tea fields and sold the tea to the Indian people.
I love stopping at some point in the afternoon and having some beautiful cup of tea. A nice big cup of strong chai gets my digestive juices going again and the whole ritual gives me the opportunity to sit and relax with a book, and/or my cat, maybe outside in the sun, or snuggled on the couch. Life is good with a cup of tea.