Chai tea, also known simply as "chai" (pronounced chaī), is a kind of sweetened black tea beverage. It is most popular in Southern Asia, though in recent years it has gained attention in North America and England, where the terms "chai" and "chai tea" usually refer to masala chai (spiced tea). In America, one can often find chai mixes—the chai equivalent of instant coffee. These mixes, though delicious, usually lack the taste that can only be found in home-brewed chai. Chai is also featured in many coffee shops like Starbucks.
Many chai drinkers attest that chai creates a warm, homey, passive feeling in the drinker. It has a subtle flavor and is meant to be gulped down and dipped into with a tea rusk. It has a nice beige/caramel color, and has a little more thickness to it like what coffee has.
Chai can be traced back to a Hindu healing practice known as "ayurveda"; a mixture not unlike today's chai was used to treat physical ailments.
Chai is the Hindi word (Hindi: चाय) for tea, from the Persian ćāy (چای) and ultimately the Mandarin chá (茶). In English, the term is used to refer to what is more properly known as masala chai (Hindi (मसाला चाय [masālā chaiy], "spiced tea"). Words for tea either derive from the Mandarin and Cantonese cha in Guangzhou or the Min tê in Fujian. Cha derivatives are the word for tea in Arabic, Persian, Kurdish, Turkish, Urdu, Russian (чай), and Czechian (čaj). Te derivatives are the word for tea in English, Dutch, Hebrew, Tamil, Polish, and Swedish.
In South East Asia, Chai is a tradition- and involves elaborate Tea ceremonies and is a form of meditation itself.
In India, the chai drinking habit is very pronounced in the northern part of the country and in the southernmost tip - in Kerala. The way chai is brewed also varies widely. In the mountains of North East India, Chai is brewed without milk or even without sugar (Salt is used as a substitute) or locally available Yak milk, Yak butter or Clarified Butter (Ghee) is used.
The flavor of chai is further enhanced with the addition of multiple fresh locally available ingredients including Lemon Grass, Ginger, Saffron, Fennel (Sounf), cardamom (Elaichi), Cinnamon, Camomille.,
There are different methods of making chai in different regions. For example, Indian chai has a spicy taste, while Pakistani chai has a lighter, creamier touch.
The following recipes are all variations of chai:
Generally speaking, chai preparations usually contain black tea, milk, spices, and a sweetener.
- Black tea - the most commonly used type for chai in the Hindustan is crush-tear-curl black tea, easily found at Southeast Asian grocers. This tea looks like pellets and is able to stand up to the boiling on a stove-top that creates the chai masala infusion.
- Earl Grey
- Darjeeling Tea: Hard to find, but often considered on of the finest black teas available.
Steamed milk is best to use for chai, but it takes time and skill to prepare. Low-fat milk, whole milk, creamer, or dried milk can all be used.
Additional flavorings edit
Chai beverages may be flavored in various ways. Some flavorings include:
- Cardamom seeds: Very common in chai. They are often de-shelled or ground for preparation in chai, but leaving them in the shell is not unheard of.
- Cinnamon: Common in westernized chai, especially "winter" or "Christmas" chai. Both Cinnamon stick and cinnamon sugar can be used.
- Ginger: Common in chai; can be used either whole or in powdered form.
- Peppercorn: Very common in chai. Can be used either whole or ground.
- Pumpkin pie spice: Found in "christmas" or "pumpkin pie" chai. Should be used in moderation, as it can be overpowering.