Thursday, September 10, 2009

Chai Tea

By Karen Johnson

What tea drinkers in the U.S. call "chai" is called "masala chai" in Pakistan, India, Tibet, and other countries. Masal chai or just chai has a rich history. Chai tea is a sweetened tea with many different flavors.

Chai tea goes back over 4,900 years to the ancient courts in India. An Indian king first discovered the tea and used it for its healing properties. Various illnesses were reportedly cured by this tea and so it grew in popularity through all of India. Today, Chai tea is consumed on a daily basis across all of India and the Eastern world.

Chai tea was thought of as a cure for many different medical conditions. In different seasons, people would add different spices and before long, many different flavors of this tea came into existence. People began to experiment more and more with this tea and even drink it hot or cold.

Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and peppermint are just a few of the traditional spices added to chai tea. Modern spices that were later added by the Western world include vanilla, cocoa, almonds, and licorice. Sweeteners were also added like molasses, brown sugar, cane sugar, and honey. The many different spice and sugar combination's give this tea its slightly golden color.

When the British colonized India, they set up tea plantations in Assam, India. On these plantations, tea trees were grown and then cultivated to produce premium black tea. This black tea became the main tea used in chai recipes and is still the main recipe used today.

In 1960 a new processing method referred to as "Cut, Tear and Curl" was implemented in Assam, India to process black tea. The cut, tear and curl method is an inexpensive process that results in a stronger and even more flavorful black tea. When the CTC method was implemented the popularity of masala chai grew eventually skyrocketing in popularity around the globe for its eclectic and spicy spin on the worlds favorite beverage . . . tea.

A popular way of making chai tea is to boil loose black tea leaves, milk, honey, and cinnamon. Once the tea is done boiling and is steeped, allow it to simmer. When it is done simmering, poor the mixture in a strainer to filter out the larger spice pieces and tea leaves. This recipe makes an excellent tasting tea. It can be served warm or cold. This is just one popular recipe. In the Eastern world, most families have their own secret recipe that they pass down through the generations.

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