This tea called Chai

Jan 13, 2015

Chai Masala originated in the areas in and around India and Tibet thousands of years ago. There are a few legends surrounding the invention of masala tea. One is that an Indian king was made this tea by his chef and so loved the drink that he banned the chef from revealing the recipe to anyone else. After his death, the secret recipe was given out, whereupon it was changed based on the ingredients people had available to them.  Another legend claims that the Tibetans were the originators of this recipe, using it as an offering and as a sign of hospitality. Their recipe used spices with salt and whatever dairy products were available (goat’s milk, yak butter, etc …).  Whoever was the originator of chai and masala blends, we thank you!

The common word for tea in many Eurasian languages is chai and masala means spice. So the proper term for the tea made with spices is Chai Masala, however, the name Chai in America has come to be known as any sort of tea or tisane with spices. Traditionally Chai Masala is a blend of black teas mixed with spices. It is steeped in water (usually by the decoction method), then milk is added and sweetener.

There is no standard formula for the “correct” chai masala. The spices used in this blend vary depending on the area of India where the recipe originated. Some blends have a prominent cinnamon taste, others are more cardamom or black pepper. Some add vanilla, anise or fennel. The black teas can vary as well in both leaf size and the type/region/country. These days a chai tea could use as its base a green tea, white tea, oolong, caffeine free rooibos, or other herbs – not just black tea. The sweeteners (sugar, agave, honey, syrup, etc) also vary as does the type of milk (half/ half, whole, low-fat, soy, almond, etc).

Recipes using Chai Masala tea as an ingredient have exploded over the last 20 years. Chai tea is used in recipes for cocktails, fudge, candy, cupcakes, cookies, ice cream, shortbread, tea cakes, cheesecakes, scones, pie, puddings and more.   We’ve used it in popsicles, pumpkin chai bread, chai nog, and chai oatmeal. There are quite a few recipes online using chai as an ingredients.  Here are a few recipes that I found online that look delicious:

Smoked Maple Bourbon Chai, Chai Vanilla Vodka , Chai Hot Toddy, Chai Jim Dandy, Chai Cookies, Chai Banana Cake 

Do you love chai tea? Have you started cooking with it yet? Start exploring today by adding a little Chai Masala to some of your favorite recipes. You can grind some in with your other ingredients, brew the tea and add the liquid to your recipe, or you can infuse butter or cream with chai masala and use these flavored products in your recipes. There are so many combinations you can come up with and all of them are delicious!

Happy experimenting!

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