The Legend of Masala Chai
Of course, Masala Chai also has a legend. According to some legends, this spiced tea was first created by a king of a long-lost Indo-Asian empire about 9,000 years ago.
The stories say that he dabbled in Ayurvedic medicine, and created this complex blend of spices as a tincture which helps cleanse and invigorate. Another story says that the main character was the chef of a king (lots of legends revolve around kings, it seems), who wanted to impress the king’s guests.
The guests were so awed by the concoction, it is said, that the king forbade the chef from divulging the recipe. Eventually, the king died, and the chef became free to reveal his tight-held secret, spreading the recipe far through the land.
What's more likely, however, is that the origins of Masala Chai come from one particular group of people: the grandmothers. In India, grandmothers are the ones in charge of the house.
When someone gets sick, they do what was done to them by their grandmothers: bust out the Masala spices, milk and jaggery (a type of unrefined sugar). This blend of bark, seeds and roots has long been thought of as a tonic to treat any number of ailments. Luckily, it’s delicious too!
Of course, the early chai recipes do not have the one central ingredient: tea. Tea was not manufactured in India until British merchants set up plantations in Assam around 1835. It quickly became in demand in every household, and it wasn’t long before it became an important ingredient in grandmothers’ remedies.
With this perfect combination in place, Masala Chai has become popular around the world. It is still one of the bestselling tea items in any coffee shop.
Our version of Masala Chai, which we call Kama Chai Sutra (‘cuz it has a little extra ‘spice’), is a blend of Assam black tea mixed with cardamom seeds, clove buds, cinnamon bark, ginger root and vanilla beans. It is great steeped in itself, but if you want to get a bit more traditional, a latte is the way to go.
Here’s how to make it:
2 cups water
2 cup whole milk
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. Kama Chai Sutra
1. In a small saucepan, bring water, milk and sugar to a boil.
2. Remove pan from heat and add the loose tea. Cover and let steep for at least 5 minutes (or up to 7 minutes, if you prefer a stronger brew).
3. Strain the mixture into a warmed teapot or directly into teacups.
Truly a blend to make kings proud!