Black tea is a stimulant, diuretic, and astringent. The spices in chai tea normalize digestion and prevent gastric problems like flatulence, diarrhea, and dyspepsia. In addition, ginger prevents undesired blood clots, black pepper stimulates the mucous membrane, cardamom improves appetite and heals asthma, cinnamon cures fungal infections, and clove regulates inflammation.
When Arthur Dent says, “A cup of tea would restore my normality” in The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, he might as well be referring to chai tea! “Chai tea” is a term that has been invented by the coffeehouses of the West to connote what is known as “masala chai” in its place of origin – India. So, let’s begin this fascinating fragrant trail across continents by understanding what masala chai actually is and its many health benefits. “Masala” is a generic term for a blend of ground spices and its ingredients vary according to the dish it is used for. “Chai” just means “tea” in many Indian as well as Eurasian languages. Masala chai literally means spiced tea. What makes chai different from other infused tea is that the tea leaves are usually simmered along with water, milk, and sugar.
Chai, because of the many ingredients, has multiple health benefits.
Black tea acts as a stimulant, diuretic, and astringent. If consumed daily, it might reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies show that it is instrumental in lowering cholesterol and has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-hypertensive properties. It has also been associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Preliminary research also indicates drinking tea might help reduce the risk of tooth cavities and kidney stones, and prevent cognitive decline in the elderly. The spices in the masala are simmered in milk, allowing the fat-soluble components to be fully released and developed. Each of the ingredients of the masala has their own health benefits.
Ginger, both dry and fresh, has been used in Ayurveda for centuries because of its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-coagulant properties. It can also prevent gastrointestinal problems such as flatulence.
Cardamom, known as the “Queen of Spices,” is an essential ingredient of most masalas. Because of its ability to reduce gastric secretions, it has been used in various Ayurvedic, Unani, and Siddha medicines to heal flatulence, loss of appetite, and colic. It can prevent and cure throat problems and is also used to treat bronchitis and asthma.
Black pepper is a gastrointestinal and mucous membrane stimulant and used in fevers, dyspepsia, flatulence, and indigestion.
Cinnamon is a versatile herb useful in treating numerous conditions. Apart from having anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, it is used to cure stomach cramps, gastric irritation, diarrhea and dysentery, and to check nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, and other dyspeptic conditions.
Clove, because of its carminative, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties, is used in dyspepsia and gastric irritation. Finally, because a mug of tea contains only half as much caffeine as a mug of coffee, chai might be a better option if you are looking for a healthy caffeine fix.
DIY Masala Chai
By now, if your interest is sufficiently piqued and you want to make masala chai aka chai tea yourself, let’s delve into the list of ingredients and the process. Masala chai can be made using ginger (dry or fresh) with a blend of spices that suit your taste buds. The spices can range from peppercorns to cinnamon, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, and star anise. Don’t hesitate to use your imagination and come up with your own concoction! Once you’ve zeroed in on the ingredients, boil this masala with equal quantities of milk and water for a good five to fifteen minutes. To this, add black tea leaves and allow it to brew. Add sugar to taste, serve hot. Lo and behold, your cup of chai is ready!