To understand the mystique surrounding Chai, we will travel back in time, (at least 5,000 years), to a place shrouded in mystery and beauty- South Asia. Most believe that the origin of this tea is India, but there are others that believe it goes back as far as 9,000 years to ancient Tibet & Pakistan. Regardless, it is legend that a king was behind the creation of this ancient Ayurveda beverage- used to detoxify the body, and for medicinal purposes. It is believed that the original properties of this drink did not include black tea leaves nor caffeine, but was prepared in different ways, and using many different spices. "Chai" simply means "tea" in those regions of the world. "Masala Chai" is the most traditional, containing these spices: star anise, fennel, black peppercorns, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. The spices would be warmed in boiling water, then mixed with milk and a natural sweetener, (such as honey, cane sugar, or date/ coconut tree sap.) It should be noted that black tea leaves were not added to this legendary drink until after the British settled in areas of India in the 1830's.
There are actually MANY recipes for Chai, and they each may be used for different medicinal properties, depending on the spices and herbs used. In today's Western cultures, "Chai Lattes" are very popular in coffeehouses- which is the basic hot tea, finished with steamed milk. There are also different varieties you can purchase in the store, such as: Chocolate Chai, Vanilla Chai, Caramel Chai, and even powdered or "instant" mixes. And, different tea leaves may also be mixed with the Chai spices to create different flavors and medicinal purposes.
Regardless of whether you enjoy your Chai hot or cold, or maybe mixed with a different tea leaf or spice/ herb variation, Chai is a beverage that overall:
**Benefits emotional health/ well-being. It has a natural calming and relaxing effect!
**Benefits digestive health, regulates blood pressure, and great for cardiovascular health.
**Powerful antioxidants help to detoxify your body of free radicals. Contains anti-aging components, and is excellent for reducing risk of cancers.
**Beneficial for those with colds, flues, or who are suffering from upper-respiratory illness.
We all have things that stress us out on the daily basis, or have constant or occasional ailments that get us down, and drinking Chai is a great way to calm yourself, and improve your overall well-being! It makes you feel good from the inside out. So relax, and have some Chai!