The History of Chai Tea

Actually, the word “Chai“ means “tea“. The word derives from the Chinese word “chá”, which is pronounced “cha”, “chai” or “shai”, depending on the local northern Chinese dialect. This pronunciation came along the land route from China to India, where the Hindus still call tea “Chai”.

In Europe, the concept of “Chai tea“ has come to replace the designation “Masala Chai”. “Masala” is an Indian word that means “blend” and is often used to denote a “spice blend”. To make a long story short, Chai tea is a synonym for Spiced tea.

The first Chai Tea variations were created in the 19th Century, when the colonial masters passed their tea plantations into Indian hands. At the time, the Indians used to drink a beverage composed of milk, sugar and diverse spices. The result of the addition of black tea to the beverage was an incredibly harmonic interaction of the single components: cooling black tea combined with heat spending spices and pleasantly rounded off by the mild, creamy consistency of milk and further refined by a light sweetness. This was how “Masala Chai” came into being. Originally, bison milk was used instead of cow’s milk.

Chai tea blends also reached international acclaim due to the wide distribution of Yoga. Many Yoga trainers spend at least some time in India for their training and during their excursions have come to know and appreciate the delicately spicy drink. The drink which is also known as Yogi-Tea found many followers, and not only in Yoga circles.

Today, most of the Chai Tea blends are composed of a black tea base and diverse spices, whereby the spices never completely cover the aroma of the tea. The recipes vary from one another. Very often cinnamon, cardamom, aniseed, ginger, cloves and nutmeg are used. Usually a generous amount of milk is added to the Chai tea infusion and then the tea is sweetened with sugar or honey.

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