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Imagine walking along a bustling Indian street when a waft of spicy, aromatic notes entices you toward a tiny street-side stall. An elderly man with a kind smile hands you a small earthen cup brimming with milk tea infused with fragrant spices - a perfect blend of sweetness, spiciness, and creaminess.
Your first sip brings warmth and comfort, awakening your senses with layers of cardamom, clove, cinnamon, and other exotic flavours. In an instant, the rich and soul-satisfying chai fills you with a sense of nostalgia.
This is Masala Chai - a soul-hugging beverage that is nothing short of an emotion for millions across the globe. And this humble drink has recently earned a noteworthy recognition. TasteAtlas, the comprehensive, global food guide, recently ranked Masala Chai as #2 on their list of the World’s Best Non-Alcoholic Beverages. As ardent tea enthusiasts, we couldn’t be happier.
In light of this, we dedicate the article to this iconic drink where we trace its origins and discuss why it deserves a place in so many cups, mugs, and hearts all around the world.
The story of masala chai is intricately woven into India's complex history. Documented to have royal origins dating back centuries, masala chai was initially created as a restorative tonic, blending an array of healing spices. It was enjoyed hot to treat minor ailments or to stay alert during lengthy court sessions. So yes, if you enjoy sipping a cup of this tea, you have something in common with the royals.
Even before the days of British occupation, Indians had a long tradition of steeping herbs and spices in water, creating therapeutic brews that not only warmed the body but also soothed the soul. Once the East India Company established tea estates in Assam, the Indian Tea Association, under British management, started promoting tea consumption across the country. Given that, high-grade tea remained costly for most Indians, sellers continued adding milk, sugar, and spices - partly to enhance the flavour, and partly to mask lower-quality tea leaves.
This signature blending technique endures in our masala chai today. As black tea became more affordable over the decades, the spiced, creamy chai enjoyed a surge in popularity in the 1960s. This ubiquitous drink was (and still is) enjoyed wherever people gather throughout the day.
So, what makes masala chai so extraordinary? Well, taste and aroma aside, the ingredients themselves boast therapeutic properties capable of enhancing your health and lifting your mood at any time of day. While recipes vary, a harmonious blend of antioxidant-rich spices, including ginger, clove, cardamom, saffron, black pepper, and cinnamon, unites to give this tea its signature flavour.
Here are some of the health benefits of the ingredients used in masala chai.
Black tea is rich in antioxidants, which can help protect the body from cell damage and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. These antioxidants also stimulate brain activity and strengthen your immune response.
The pungent kick from the ginger is what gives masala chai its signature flavour. Beyond lighting up our taste buds, ginger is known to boost digestion, act against nausea, soothe stomach cramps, and reduce bloating. Gingerols and shogaols, two of the most bioactive compounds found in the spice, are claimed to have anti-cancer, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergic properties.
Cardamom, often hailed as the queen of spices, is renowned for its numerous health benefits. Give the green pods a gentle crush before adding them to your tea. This releases aromatic oils for maximum flavour. Cardamom is also incredibly bioactive, with antioxidant-rich compounds that help reduce blood pressure, alleviate bloating, and promote overall well-being.
While brewing your masala chai, be sure not to overlook the cloves; as they beautifully weave the flavours of the tea together. Eugenol, a chemical compound found in this spice, displays anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties that can shield you from infections. Cloves are also known to reduce inflammation, ease digestive issues like ulcers, and provide relief from nausea or vomiting.
Known as the world's most expensive spice, saffron adds subtle grassy notes and a beautiful golden hue to masala chai. Saffron contains antioxidant compounds like crocin and crocetin that can lift mood and enhance cognitive abilities. Another bioactive compound, Safranal, has also been found to improve sleep quality, promote a healthy immune system, and overall well-being. Adding a few delicate strands of this golden spice can go a long way enhancing the flavour and health benefits of your masala chai.
Finally, a dash of black pepper adds a lovely depth to your masala chai. The chemical compounds in black pepper expedite the absorption and movement of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients into your bloodstream. In essence, pepper ensures you reap the most benefits from drinking this restorative beverage. Black pepper also fights common colds and helps clear toxins from your body, further improving its functioning and promoting weight loss.
We always knew masala chai was award-worthy, and now it's official! From its humble beginnings on Indian streets to earning accolades as the world’s second-favourite non-alcoholic beverage, masala chai has come a long way. And deservedly so.
And for true chai aficionados, we have an offer as irresistible as this drink. For a limited period, enjoy a 25% discount on MRP when you purchase a kilo of our flavourful Masala Tea (Assam CTC). There’s never been a better time to indulge in this timeless classic.
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