Chai is the Spice Tea of India! Chai in America is known as Chai Tea, but the problem is that Chai in Hindi means tea, so it is actually not necessary to use the word tea after chai!
Masala Chai is the proper name for chai in India. Masala means a combination of spices and chai means tea, so when we add the two together, we get Masala Chai, or spiced tea!
Chai is virtually the mainstay of Indian culture. Even when fresh cold water is not available, you will inevitably encounter a chai wallah, or chai vendor yelling “Chayee! Chayee!” Believe it or not, Masala Chai or Spice Tea has been consumed in India since the 1800’s!
What are the spices used in Chai you may wonder
It really depends on what part of India you are in. Each Chai Wallah or chai vendor has its own recipe. However, there are some spices that whether you are in the North of India or in the South, you will definitely taste in your cup of chai and those spices are Cardamom and Ginger. Besides those two, Cinnamon and Cloves are also added to the base and then you see different variations of it, like with coconut, pepper, fennel lemongrass, peppermint, curry leaves, saffron, vanilla and the list goes on and on…
There are an infinite number of combinations you can use! That is the beauty of this nurturing, revitalizing, yet calming beverage. You can drink it iced, too, although that is not the traditional way of drinking it.
In India they use ground black tea, usually Assam, known as CTC which stands for Cut, Tear, Curl. It brews a rich and strong cup to which milk and sweetener must be added to counteract its astringency, making it a perfect base for the spices.
Whether it is called by its “proper” name of Masala Chai or Spice Tea, or the generic name, Chai, the combination of the spices, the black tea, the milk and the sweetener makes this beverage utterly delicious!