Although spring is not far away, it’s still very chilly in early February – we have our fair share of icy mornings to go before the warmer weather returns, so why not warm up with a nice cup of traditional Indian masala chai?
Chai literally means ‘tea’ in most Indian languages, but we know chai as that deliciously spiced, warming milky beverage that is perfect for a cold day. Chai is traditionally made using black tea (often Darjeeling), water and milk, and a combination of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, black pepper and cloves, and sometimes vanilla, star anise, coriander seeds and peppercorns are added too. These spices have a naturally warming effect on the body and when combined with some hot milky tea, make the perfect drink for cold weather.
Chai is not just a tasty beverage – it also may have some potential health benefits too.
- Ginger has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal herb, and appears to have some powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Many people use ginger to ease nausea caused by travel sickness or morning sickness. Ginger can help to ease digestion and may even be effective for lowering cholesterol and supporting heart health.
- Cinnamon is also widely used in folk remedies, and much like ginger, it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Cinnamon appears to lower blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance as well as reducing cholesterol levels.
- Cardamom is one of the world’s oldest known spices, and its use dates back over 4,000 years. The ancient Egyptians used cardamom for its medicinal properties and even embalming rituals. Cardamom has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties and is thought to be good for oral health, helping to combat cavities, gum disease and bad breath. In Ayurvedic medicine (traditional Indian medicine), cardamom is considered a detoxifying ingredient, which sounds fanciful, but studies show that cardamom appears to support the health of the liver, the organ responsible for removing toxins from the blood.
- Black pepper is commonly used in cooking all over the world – most people have some black pepper in the kitchen cupboard for seasoning food. Black pepper also has some health benefits too – it is high in antioxidants, which help prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals. Black pepper also helps the body to absorb other essential nutrients like calcium and selenium.
Chai is a super healthy drink as well as being delicious, so why not whip up a batch of homemade chai? See our recipe below.
Easy Masala Chai
6 – 8 green cardamom pods
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
3 – 4 whole cloves
12g grated or sliced ginger (note: grated ginger will give a stronger taste)
3 – 4 black tea bags (Darjeeling or Assam are traditionally used, but any black tea is fine)
480ml milk (you can use any milk or non-dairy equivalent you like)
½ tsp of vanilla extract or half a vanilla bean (optional but delicious)
Sugar or sweetener to taste
- Crush your dry spices with a mortar and pestle, or use the flat side of a knife to crush on a chopping board. They don’t need to be crushed completely into powder, just broken up enough to release the flavours.
- Add the crushed spices, water, and grated (or sliced) ginger to a medium sized saucepan, bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the black tea bags and milk and turn the heat to the lowest setting available. Allow to simmer, stirring gently, for 5 minutes.
- Add the vanilla, if using, turn off the heat and leave the mixture to rest for 5 minutes more for the flavours to develop further.
- Add your preferred sweetener to taste – many people find that chai is naturally sweet enough, but feel free to add brown sugar, stevia, maple syrup or whatever you like best.
- Pour through a strainer to serve in your favourite mug. This chai can be kept in the fridge for 3 or 4 days and reheated as needed – chai is also delicious when served over ice.
Making your own chai is fun and easy, but you can also get pre-blended chai tea bags – you may have even had some included in your Varietea box lately! We have reviewed a couple of our favourites including Tick Tock Rooibos Vanilla Chai and Hampstead Tea Organic Karma Chai for our Tea of the Week feature.
Remember, if you are not a customer yet, you can save 50% on your first subscription box from us! Just click here and use the code ‘NEW50’ to get your first Varieteas box half price.