Posted in Kafevend Blog

Tea and spice and all things nice

Winter is well and truly upon us and what better way to warm up than with a hot drink? A hot and spicy drink would do the job even more effectively, but you can't crack open the mulled wine too early in the day. Not to worry, remember there's always chai!

Which spice?

Although we tend to refer to the spiced black tea drink as chai, it's properly known as masala chai. This is because chai, on its own, actually just means tea. Masala is the Indian word for a mixture of spices, hence masala chai. Just which spices should be included is a matter of personal preference. In India families will have their own distinct version when they get the time to prepare it the traditional way- more on that later.

If you're looking to buy masala chai off the supermarket shelf, there's no shortage of varieties to try. Twinings keep it simple with cinnamon, cloves and ginger, while chai specialist company, Tea India, add in cardamom, black pepper and anise too. As well as their signature masala chai blend they now also offer ginger chai, coconut chai and cardamom chai. With a blend of 75% black tea and 25% ginger, their ginger chai promises to be very warming indeed!

Do it yourself

Chai lattes have become a common addition to the drinks menus of cafés and coffee shops up and down the country, but rather than being a decadent invention for the Western palette, they're actually not far off the mark. A bona fide masala chai uses plenty of whole milk for a creamy finished result, not to mention a generous amount of sugar. Assam tea with its strong malty taste is a good base for the drink as it can hold its own alongside the strong flavours of the spices. Forget kettles and teapots, if you want to have a go at creating your own masala chai you'll need a saucepan.

Once you've chosen and prepared your selection of spices, boil up some water in your pan and start to add the spices, then some loose leaf Assam, sugar and finally a liberal amount of full fat milk. Stir frequently and bring to the boil three or four times, removing the pan from the heat briefly each time it threatens to boil over. Don't forget to pour your chai into a mug via a tea strainer or you'll get a mouthful of tea leaves! To see masala chai being prepared before you take that leap check out this link.

Street vendors known as chai wallahs are a common sight in India. Situated on street corners and on railway platforms, they have no shortage of customers. Tea is indigenous to India's Assam region and has been cultivated and enjoyed there since time immemorial, yet it only became popular throughout the entire nation following  independence in 1947 when tea estates began to be transferred to Indian ownership. These days up to 80% of the tea harvest remains in India itself to satisfy people's unquenchable thirst for tea, and in particular masala chai. If you've never given it a go before, seize the moment!


Masala chai
History of tea in India

Previous Story

Next Story