Chai tea – and primarily a chai latte – is a beverage that has become increasingly popular in the Western world over the last couple of years. Now ubiquitous in tea and coffee shops across the world, the sweet and spicy refreshment will warm and soothe you as the nights draw in – a delicious autumnal treat! Despite its newfound popularity in the West, Masala Chai has been a staple in many South-Asian countries for centuries.
What does ‘Masala Chai’ actually mean?
Masala chai literally translates to ‘spiced tea’, and the etymology of the word has a fascinating history. Almost all variations and pronunciations found in modern languages come from two root words – ‘te’ and ‘cha’, depending on which trade route they followed.
After the discovery of tea in China (a fascinating story that you can read about in an upcoming blog post), before it began to be cultivated and processed, the leaves had a bitter taste. Because of this the drink was named ‘荼 tu’, meaning ‘bitter vegetable’.
In Mandarin, the preent day word for tea is ‘茶 cha’, which is believed to have formed in 760 C.E., when the scholar Lu Yu wrote the Cha Jing (The Classic of Tea) and accidentally missed a cross stroke from the character ‘tu’, creating the word cha.
Most Indian dialects use variations of ‘cha’ (often the Hindi word ‘chai’), influenced by Mandarin and Cantonese. This word was carried along the trade route called the ‘Tea Horse Road’, beginning in China’s Yunnan province and travelling via Persia (who modified the word to ‘chay’) to India!
So why do the British call it tea?
Even though the written character remained the same, the pronunciation changed depending on dialect. In the area today known as the Fuijan province, it was pronounced ‘te’, adopted by the Dutch who had started shipping tea from China through their own trade routes rather than the tea horse road. It was the Dutch who then introduced it to us!
Origins of Masala Chai
The origins of masala chai date back thousands of years ago, and vary according to different legends. Some say it was created 5000 years ago, and some say 9000, but it is believed to have originated in a royal court, created as an Ayurvedic beverage that could be served either hot or cold.
Although nowadays a chai boasts a good kick of caffeine, when it was first created it did not actually contain any tea leaves at all!
The introduction of Assam
In the 1830s, the British-owned East India Company set up tea plantations in the region of Assam, India. Up until this point, tea was cultivated exclusively in China and had been for thousands of years. The discovery of wild-growing camellia assamica by botanists in Assam showed that there were suitable climates for tea production in India as well as China, and so India’s monopoly on tea production began!
It was at this time that black tea was introduced into the chai, with the addition of milk, and it became as we know it today!
What ingredients does our blend contain?
Our decadent blend includes 60% of delicious black tea, sourced from the Assam province as the traditional Masala Chai. We have also included six delicious spices.
- Cinnamon has a vast array of health benefits as it is loaded with antioxidants, is praised for its blood-sugar-lowering qualities, may help bacterial and fungal infections, and many more.
- Ginger aids digestion, reduces nausea, and help fight the flu and common cold. It has Gingerol content, with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- Aniseed is believed to help digestive issues, runny noses, and even menopausal issues!
- Cardamom aid digestion, reduce nausea, and help fight the flu and common cold, known to lower blood pressure, protect from chronic diseases due to its anti-inflammatory properties, treat bad breath, and much more.
- Cloves can kill bacteria, may improve liver health and promote bone health!
- Red peppercorns may improve your brain, lower cholesterol levels and boost absorption of other nutrients.
All these spices together mean that our chai tea is incredibly healthy, as well as incredibly tasty! Let us know your thoughts.