Chai is the Eurasian word for tea, the brewed spicy beverage we enjoy in the West today originated in India.
Tea was not widely drunk in India as a pastime till The British East India Company began growing it in India and Ceylon in the 1830’s. The Indian Tea Association promoted its consumption into national workplaces as an earned tea break, to encourage the population to consume it in quantities. Tea consumption was expanded by the independent Indian chai sellers on the growing railway network.
Rather than adopt the English way of drinking tea, chai wallahs began to mix tea with Ayurvedic spices, most commonly cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom, ginger and pepper, heavy milk and lots of sweetener. This was named Masala Chai or plainly, chai. Much to the disapproval of the tea campaigners, this reduced the amount of expensive tea in the mix, and gained popularity as a national drink.
There are different chai recipes from each region of India. Each using different spice combinations, types of milk and strains of tea.
It surged in popularity in the 1960’s and spread across the West by travelers and fans of Indian culture and lifestyle. A chai tent erected at alternative music and culture festivals around the world is a common sight, and a gathering place of like minded people.
We no longer need to go to India to get an authentic chai taste. Many cafes sell delicious chai lattes as an alternative to coffee. Chai is also available as a pre-packaged grocery item but be warned to check for additives and artificial flavours.
A natural premium instant chai product can give you an easy alternative to slow cooking your beverage from whole spices.