It is said that spices were used in India for thousands of years for those seeking medicinal benefits. The variety of spices and preparation methods was intended as a remedy for some of the more minor complaints and was used as such for centuries. In the early 1800’s, as the British began developing their tea plantations throughout the Assam region of India, the resulting black tea began being incorporated into the local chai recipes. Unfortunately, black tea was too expensive for the greater population and it wasn’t until the 1960’s that black tea became more widely available at a lower price.
This is when the chai that we are familiar with today began to be incorporated into daily life and the widespread appearance of the “chai wallah,” who is the street or train vendor of chai. I remember being transported through the streets of Calcutta in Char’s travel case. She loved nothing better than chatting with chai wallahs and trying their wares.
Traditional chai in India is made with freshly ground spices, with cardamom being the dominant ingredient but accented by cinnamon, ginger and peppercorn. This is sweetened with a unrefined cane sugar and whole milk. However, with the growing popularity around the world, you’ll find a variety of sweeteners, milk preferences and ratios of spices. And while freshly ground spices are part of the magic of the drink, you’ll find more and more concentrated syrups that add that spiced characteristic.
Kat has recently been introducing her coffee-loving friends to chai, and they’re being pleasantly surprised. The creamy richness of chai warms the belly as well as the soul that they find very appealing. One or two of them have even replaced their morning coffee with a morning chai. I love it when we win over new friends!
Start your day with a little exotic adventure. Awaken your senses with the heady aromas of spices in your cup. You may be delighted with the result!