Making the Perfect Cup of Chai
Yoga and tea are an essential part of my life. One thing that I find so wonderful, is how beautifully they go together. This past month, I’ve been researching a story on Chai tea for Tea and Coffee Trade Journal. Since chai is one of my favorite beverages, it has been an extremely enjoyable experience. I have had the opportunity of talking to some of the experts in the field and tasting some decadent chai’s.
If you’ve wandered through your local tea shop, you will notice an explosion in the chai market. If fact, Rishi Tea informed me that their chai market has shown an increase of 30% this past year. One thing that’s really transformed, is the vast amount of teas that are called chai. Teavana offers chai in green tea, white tea, oolong and mate. Ironically, they no longer offer a black tea version (the original form that chai was in). So this got me thinking? What is chai?
Chai is in fact quite simply tea with milk. The word chai, means tea in Hindi so if you state chai tea, you are in fact stating tea tea. However, it’s the spices that we most often connect to chai. But what spices make up a chai? Well, what I discovered is that anything goes.
Manish Shah from Maya Tea Company shared that spice is an integral piece of Indian life style. Probably the original use of spices in India had its roots in Ayurveda: choosing spices that warm, cool and are used for wellness. In India, the standard spice choice tends to be both regional and seasonal. In some areas, they prefer ginger and in others they may use saffron. However, in most Indian homes a proper chai would have milk and black rich (usually Assam) tea. Originally, milk was used for caloric reasons. Today, it is to enhance the palette of the tea and the effect of the spices.
I’ve learned there are two essential tools to brew a perfect cup of chai. Fresh, real ingredients and savoring the process.
Traditionally, chai tea is not brewed like a standard tea. In fact, the brewing of a chai is a full sensory experience. Since my interviews, I’ve been having some fun brewing and absorbing the entire experience.
Brewing a beautiful cup of chai is an amazing way to be present and simply absorb the moment. There are a few ways to choose your chai, either buying a tea leaf mix (that contains both the tea leaves and the spices) or choosing a tea leaf and then adding your own spices. Grind some fresh ginger, add in a cinnamon stick, or perhaps some fresh mint. Taste the tea on it’s own and then notice the impact that each of the spices have on the leaves. Different types of tea will work better with different spices and so experiment with this process.
To Brew a Cup of Chai:
1) Boil water in a pot
2) Once boiled, add in the black tea herbs, your desired spices, and sugar. Allow these flavors to merge and mix, simmering together.
3) After simmering (anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes). Add your milk to the pot. Allow the milk to boil. Watch this portion carefully, as milk can quite easily spill over the pot.
4) Once boiled, reduce the heat and continue to allow the milk, spices and tea to simmer together. Simmer this brew for as long as you desire, but ideally at least 30 minutes to absorb the full intensity of the spices.
5) Strain the tea and serve.
6) Savor your beautiful, flavorful beverage.
Now, not everyone has the time to brew their chai this way. But once and a while it is great to indulge. As an added benefit, your entire home will smell like the beautiful spices in your chai.