As Autumn winds begin to blow, the cool, dry season can easily unsettle Vata dosha. A nice warm cup of Masala Chai is the perfect way to enjoy those crisp Autumn mornings.
Throughout Asia, preparing and drinking tea is an elaborate ceremony, and is considered an art form. Each family may have their own special recipe and method of making their beloved chai. Whenever special guests or even a quick visitor stops by a friend’s home, they are always greeted with a fresh cup of chai. Many Indians may stop to take between two to four chai breaks a day.
Chai is the generic word for tea in India. What most westerners are referring to when they say “Chai” is actually called Masala Chai or Spiced Tea. It is the unique combination of exotic spices that has made this drink so popular all over the world. Not only do the aromatic spices make the tea so flavorful, but they are also considered Ayurvedic medicinal herbs, which aid in digestion.
The pungent spices like ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper all stimulate the agni or digestive fire. Cardamom helps to break up the mucilaginous qualities of milk, and in fact, greatly mitigates the effects of caffeine found in black tea. Different regions of India will have their own versions of Chai by adding individual ingredients like nutmeg, mint leaves, licorice, almonds, saffron, or rose essence.
Traditional masala chai liberally uses whole milk, creating that rich, creamy taste. The milk is actually cooked along with the water, tea, and spices; unlike western tea and coffee beverages, where a splash of milk is added at the end. This cooking method allows the milk to be more easily digested. Though Ayurveda suggests using full-fat, raw, cow’s milk, one could use low-fat or dairy substitutes like almond or rice milk.
Recipe for Masala Chai
2 ½ cups water
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
½ inch piece of freshly grated ginger
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground black peppercorns
2 cardamom pods freshly ground
2 tablespoons of an Indian black tea (Assam, Darjeeling, Ceylon)
1 ½- 2 cups milk
1-2 teaspoons sweetener (Succanat, Turbinado, Date sugar)
Bring water and spices to a boil. Add tea and boil for 2 more minutes. Add milk and continue simmering on low flame. The chai has to be looked after carefully, because it can easily boil over. Strain into cups and serve. Sweetener can be added to taste.
** Black tea can be substituted with Herbal teas such as: Tulsi, Gotu Kola, Green tea, Rooibos, Yerba Mate, Dandelion, or Lemongrass
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