HOW TO MAKE MASALA CHAI BY NIDHI VERMA
why i love masala chai
The time has come to dedicate a blog to masala chai; the iconic Indian beverage that has been a constant for me through treasured friendships, conversations, adventures and in times rough and smooth. I can’t think of a drink that is more symbolic of the Indian culture and way of life. Come rain or sunshine, I am always comforted by the knowledge that my cup of chai is never too far away!
Chai is a great leveller which brings people together in so many different ways. When in good company I can easily lose count of the cups as we chat and laugh together. Masala Chai for me is not just a drink but an opportunity to steal a little time for myself, still my mind and quite simply, take life one cup at a time.
“There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a cup of tea.”Ralph Waldo Emerson
what goes into making the perfect chai?
As with most Indian dishes, masala chai can be made in many different ways using various combinations of spices and methods. I’ve shared my favourite recipe for chai below. Having said that, the foundation spices usually remain the same. They include green and black cardamom, star anise, clove, cinnamon and black peppercorn. Fennel seeds can also be added which are great for digestive health and lend a beautiful aroma to the chai.
I sometimes use freshly grated ginger which works wonders when down with flu or a sore throat. I also gently crush the whole spices in a pestle and mortar to release their flavour and oils before adding these to boiling water. Masala chai is strong bodied with bold flavours of the spices and tea leaves so I always recommend using good quality whole milk for a rich creamy taste.
why is chai good for you?
Although I love chai all year round, autumn and winter are the perfect time to embrace this warming drink. The whole spices are packed with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, improve digestion, help fight flu and beat fatigue. I also believe that tea is the finest solution to nearly every catastrophe and conundrum that the day may bring. So, there are plenty of good reasons to go ahead and brew your cup of chai!
what is the history of masala chai?
In the 1830s, the British East India Company was getting increasingly concerned about the Chinese monopoly on tea, as over 90% of the tea consumed in Britain was sourced from China. The British colonists noticed the existence of Assamese tea plants in India and began to cultivate tea locally. As a result, by 1900 the market share of tea sourced from China had dropped to only 10% and had been replaced by tea grown in British India and British Ceylon, present-day Sri-Lanka.
Historically Indians viewed tea as a herbal medicine rather than as a recreational beverage. In order to increase tea consumption locally, the British-owned Indian Tea Association ran a promotional campaign in the early 20th century encouraging factories, mines and textile mills to provide tea breaks for their workers. They also supported the growth of independent chai wallahs (tea vendors) throughout the expanding railway system. The rest, as they say, is history and masala chai came to be known as the most popular beverage across India.