The History of Masala Chai Tea
Masala Chai tea is a sweet, spicy, hot beverage, famous for its fragrant aroma. It goes by the names masala chai and chai tea and is made using black tea with a combination of spices. Those spices include ginger, cardamom, basil, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, nutmeg, and black pepper. Star anise, coriander seeds, and peppercorns are also often included within the mix. With regular tea being brewed in water, chai tea is traditionally made using warm water and warm milk. In recent years it has become extremely popular in western countries, however, this variation of the tea often includes additional sweeteners added to it.
Masala Chai has a long and bold history with some saying the tea dates back as far as 9000 years ago. The brew was apparently created as a purgative Ayurvedic beverage. Depending on the type of ailment one had, the brew was served either hot or cold, though the drink consistently lacked tea and caffeine.
It wasn’t until British tea farms were set up in India that black tea made its way into the chai beverage. In 1835 the first masala chai was created as we drink it today, yet it was not popular with locals and was exported because of its expensive price tag.
The 1900s saw Indians begin to drink tea at a much higher rate. This was partly due to the Tea Association (British-owned) promoting tea consumption. With black tea being such an expensive ingredient, locals used to use sugar, milk, and spices to keep drinks tasty while keeping costs down. The popularity of chai tea spread rapidly, and it even became a custom to welcome guests into the home with the spicy hot drink.
Across parts of India, people drink chai tea four or more times a day, and it’s popular to have an afternoon chai with a snack. The snack could range from samosas and farsan to pakoras and nashta.
Today the widespread popularity of chai tea means you will encounter it in practically any western café you go to. If you are health conscious then be sure to check the ingredients, because cafes tend to load the drink with sugar and reduce the number of healthy herbs and spices.