The ritual of brewing masala chai is rooted in Indian Hindu tradition where food, life and death are intrinsically tied to one another. The folklore of chai dates back over 5,000 years to an ancient royal court in South-East Asia, likely India or Thailand. According to legend, an Indian king sought out an Ayurvedic healing beverage to be formulated and so, the spiced tea was born. Whilst there are other legends, the story of the Ayurvedic beverage closely aligns with how spices were, and still are, used in chai for their healing properties.
In our common day lexicon, chai often casually refers to the milky, sweet beverage served at almost every corner café. However, the origins of the term are quite distinct – the word “chai” means tea in Hindu, and the term “masala” means spice. Hence, “masala chai” is spiced tea and “chai masala” is tea spice.
Traditionally, masala chai was a concoction of spices and black tea and was served as a hot drink. There was no milk involved. Today, masala chai is a mixture of black tea and aromatic spices, served with milk. The black tea is generally Assam or Darjeeling tea, both native to India.
The most commonly used spices are cardamom for its properties as a stimulant; star anise to freshen the breath; clove for its antiseptic qualities; ginger and black peppercorn as carminatives and to stimulate digestion; and cinnamon for its warming and grounding properties. There are, however, many different versions throughout India, and it's not uncommon for each household to have its own unique version of their chai.
Inspired by Gewürzhaus co-founder Maria’s travels through India, Raj's Whole Chai Tea is a creation of such. Our chai blend is made with full-bodied Ceylon orange pekoe, a particular grade of black tea, which gives the chai a rich, copper-coloured infusion. The blend also features a mixture of whole and freshly ground spices, including cassia, cardamom, pepper, clove, star anise, ginger, nutmeg.
Brewing a traditional masala chai in your home kitchen is easier than you might think. Like in the streets and kitchens of India, we recommend a stovetop brew in a milkpot or saucepan. This yields a rich and spicy milk tea that is best shared and enjoyed steaming hot.
The key ingredients are:
We recommend using Raj’s Whole Chai Tea and Raj’s Majestic Chai Masala together to brew chai at home. Once you've made the chai, use a pinch of Raj's Majestic Chai Masala and sprinkle it over the top. The pinch is the finishing touch to the chai drink; the spice masala hitting the chai drink prompting a sensory commotion in the sinus. A steam of spice goes up your nostrils, where you inhale the peppery and gingery tones of the masala.
Traditionally, buffalo milk is used in India. You can use full cream, soy or almond milk, depending on your preference. Our preference is to prepare it with high-fat milk, as the full cream gives the chai masala a smooth and rich flavour.
When using Raj’s Whole Chai Tea, you need to brew the water to 100°C. However, if the chai tea base is a green tea one, it’s best to boil the water to 80°C to avoid burning the tea leaves and leaving a bitter taste. We wouldn’t recommend a cold brew, because you wouldn’t be able to get the true flavour of the drink. In cold water, the spices struggle to release their full aroma and flavour.
If you cannot make it on a stovetop, you can still enjoy your chai made with a strainer or teapot.
Whichever method you choose to create your masala chai, we hope it prompts a moment of reflection to take in the ritual of chai. Take time to stop and enjoy your drink.