If you order a chai in any average Australian café, you will most likely be served a chai latte. But this (often delicious) milk, sugar and ground spice concoction is actually missing one special ingredient. Tea.
A Brief History of Chai
Indian in origin, the term ‘chai’ translates to ‘tea’ in Hindi. There, this fragrant, creamy brew is still enjoyed on streets and in households across the country, from morning to night.
Considering India’s renowned love and celebration of flavour, it comes as no surprise that Ayurvedic spices were brewed as a beverage long before they were paired with the black tea leaf. However, it wasn’t until the 1800s – when the British East India Company capitalised on the native Indian Assam tea plant – that spices, black tea and milk were first combined.
When the British began exporting Assam tea internationally, this leaf was too costly for domestic enjoyment in India. Common implication suggests milk and spice were initially added to black tea to increase the brew volume – as Assam leaves were so expensive.
As prices of black tea decreased due to the CTC (cut, tear, curl) method, chai’s popularity rose dramatically. By the 1900s, chai had become a permanent fixture in Indian culture. Today, chai wallahs – street vendors best described as baristas of chai – are found on almost every street in Mumbai, Delhi and regional areas of India. These wallahs brew chai in giant pots, and often serve customers in disposable, earthenware cups.
There is no set formula or precise method of brewing a traditional chai. Many chai wallahs have their own family recipe with generations of fine-tuning, and techniques differ from region to region.
Elemental to chai are spice, black tea, milk and a sweetener. Spices vary, but cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, fennel, black peppercorns, and cloves are common ingredients.
Just as Ayurvedic spices are sourced for health benefits, common chai ingredients are valuable health boosters. Cinnamon is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, ginger supports the immunity, and cardamom aids digestion.
Caitlyn’s Warming Chai
For an authentic chai experience, The Tea Centre’s blends balance spice and black tea perfectly.
To indulge in Caitlyn’s Warming Chai – a deliciously fragrant recipe – you’ll need:
- Your favourite Tea Centre chai
- Whole milk (3 mugs)
- Honey (or preferred sweetener)
- Medium saucepan
- Pour 3 mugs of whole milk into a medium saucepan
- Scoop 3 heaped teaspoons of your favourite Tea Centre chai into milk
- Bring mixture to a simmer on low
- Heat for 5-10 minutes until a bubbly froth appears
- Stir in a large dollop of honey (or sugar if preferred)
- Turn off heat
- Allow mixture to steep for a few minutes
- Pour mixture into mug through strainer
Tea Centre Tips
The Tea Centre’s Mumbai Chai makes an excellent stovetop brew, as it releases sweetness of vanilla bean and liquorice root directly into simmering milk.
For a more classically spicy blend, sample our authentic Masala Chai with a generous dash of honey.
Chai is best served in a large mug, and sipped slowly on a cold winter night – though in our opinion, it can (and should) be enjoyed all year long.