Chai tea: where did it all start and what is it?
Chai tea is one of the most famous blends in the world and is known for its health benefits, but what are its origins and how is it made?
Chai has a long history, its name comes from the Hindi word for “tea”, a word which can trace its own roots back to “cha”, the Chinese word for “tea”. The Hindi version of Chai tea is a mix of spices which are infused in water to produce a tea-like beverage.
What is Chai tea?
Recipes for Chai vary across the world, with blends being individual to certain countries, regions and even families. However, most generally agree that a black tea is used as a base before it is mixed with a selection of spices, such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns.
The spiced tea infusion is usually brewed for a strong flavour before milk is added along with sugar or honey.
What are the origins of Chai tea?
The history of Chai tea is surrounded in mystery, but many believe it dates back thousands of years to ancient India. According to folklore, a regional king wanted a spiced beverage for medicinal purposes.
The result was a drink harnessing the heat of ginger and black pepper which was believed to help digestion. Cloves were added for their antiseptic properties, together with cardamom, cinnamon and star anise.
Milk, sugar and black tea are all later developments which became popular during the 19th century.
What does Chai tea contain?
As we have seen, the Chai tea recipe has changed over the centuries, but it is now widely recognised to contain these elements:
Black tea from India (such as Assam or Darjeeling) are the most popular foundations for Chai tea. However, you may find some using green tea, rooibos or purely herbal blends.
Sugar: whether you use white or brown sugar, or even honey, Chai tea is now known for its sweetness.
Milk of any variety is now an essential part of Chai tea. Indian versions use buffalo milk, while Western palettes prefer cow’s milk. Dairy alternatives like soy and coconut milk are a 21st century addition.
Spices reflect the location where you are drinking Chai tea. Every part of the world has its own take on the recipe, which is one of the enduring elements of Chai tea.
Order your Chai tea today
If you fancy giving Chai tea a try, we have a wide selection of blends available. Don’t forget that our team of tea experts are always on hand to give you some helpful advice.
Find out more by visiting our Chai Selection.