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Masala Chai: A Historic Journey from Spices to Sip

by Shikha Puri 20 Oct 2023 0 Comments
History of Masala Chai

Masala Chai, a fragrant and flavorful tea, has become a beloved beverage worldwide. From сelebrities like Selena Gomez to сhai enthusiasts in every сorner of the globe, it’s сaрtivating blend of sрiсes and сomforting warmth has transсended сultures and garnered adoration from all walks of life. But have you ever wondered about this delectable drink's origins and story? Let's explore Masala Chai's fascinating history. 

Origins of Masala Chai

The exact history of Masala Chai is a topic of ongoing debate, but the earliest documentation dates back to over 500 years ago in Southeast Asia. It is believed to have originated at the royal court of King Harshavardhana as an Ayurvedic beverage. He would drink this tea to remain alert during lengthy court sessions that dragged on for hours by merely sipping it during long waiting periods between sessions. Visitors were also offered a welcome refreshment when they visited the court. Masala chai was brewed using various fragrant spices and prepared in multiple ways.

Masala Chai in India

In early development, Masala Chai didn’t contain tea leaves nor had caffeine content. It was used traditionally to cure simple medical conditions and served in a small earthenware vessel called Kullhads by Chai vendors all over Indian states. The conversion of Masala Chai into black tea occurred with the British introducing it to India in 1835. The Indian Tea Association, which came under British ownership, was significant in advocating tea consumption throughout the country. 

Evolution of Masala Chai 

The evolution of Masala Chai took a significant turn in the early 1900s with the introduction of milk. Previously, regions like Bengal and Gujarat would enhance the taste of high-quality milk with spices. However, as tea leaves were expensive, vendors began using leftover tea leaves and brewed them with milk, sugar, and spices. This development led to a more robust and cost-effective version of Masala Chai that we know today. 

Masala Chai Across India

The demand for Masala Chai consistently increased throughout different regions of India. The chai vendors at railway stations became key players in preparing and distributing this popular beverage to commuters and pedestrians. They would brew large quantities of Masala Chai and serve it in traditional clay pots known as kullhads. These chai stalls developed into significant social hubs where men would gather to interact and talk about their day-to-day lives. The selection of aromatic spices used in brewing masala chai varies from one region of India to another.

Regional Variations of Masala Chai 

In India, each region has its ways of preparing masala chai, offering distinct flavours and ingredients. In the western part of the country, cloves and black peppercorns are typically omitted from masala chai recipes. On the other hand, Kashmiri Masala Chai uses green tea leaves rather than black tea leaves to create a more subtle taste profile. This variation also incorporates almonds, cardamom, saffron, cloves, and cinnamon to enhance the flavour experience further. In Bhopal, a hint of salt is occasionally included for an added layer of taste complexity.

The Traditional Recipe and Preparation of Masala Chai 

The preparation of traditional masala chai does not follow a fixed recipe. It combines spices, milk, sugar, and black tea. The spice mix-karha, is pivotal to creating masala chai; it commonly incorporates powdered ginger and green cardamom pods. Other spices like cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, peppercorns, nutmeg, and cloves are frequently integrated to enhance their flavour profile. 

Typically, masala chai's tea base is a strong black tea, like the Assam variety, to strike a balance with the spices and sweeteners without overpowering the taste. However, green tea or gunpowder tea options can create distinctive flavours when used as alternatives for unleashing diversity in masala chai's taste palette. The chosen tea leaves are directly steeped in milk instead of water alone to yield that signature creamy consistency and remarkable flavour typical to masala chai. Balancing personal preferences may require adjustments in the ratio regarding milk-to-water volumes.

Preparing masala chai involves heating milk and water until it reaches almost boiling point. Add loose black tea, spices, and sugar to the hot mixture. Allow the combination to simmer for a few minutes, enabling the flavours to meld together. Afterwards, remove the chai from the heat and cover it with a lid, allowing it to steep for approximately 10 minutes to boost its taste profile. Finally, strain the concoction using a fine mesh strainer before serving it piping hot.

Masala Chai: Spreading Warmth and Unity Globally

The delightful amalgamation of spices, milk, and black tea has propelled masala chai to widespread fame in India and internationally. With origins rooted in ancient Ayurvedic texts and spurred by efforts from the British East India Company during their expansion of tea cultivation in India, this iconic beverage has become an integral part of countless people's daily routines due to its distinct flavours and soothing nature. 

Whether enjoyed at home, at work, or in tea houses worldwide, masala chai continues to captivate taste buds and bring people together through its aromatic and flavorful brew. Exрlore the riсh heritage of masala сhai through the offerings of TeaCuрsFull's tea boxes where you сan disсover the finest blends and exрerienсe the global tea сulture firsthand. 

Exрlore the tea сulture of the world through TeaCuрsFull's offerings, where eaсh siр takes you on a journey to the riсh heritage of tea traditions from around the world.



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