In many languages across the world chai means one thing… TEA! The chai I am going to be referring to here is a particular style of tea called Masala Chai, loosely translated to “spiced tea”. It’s hard to say exactly how far chai goes back in time, and could even go back as far as 5000 BCE. We do know that the first documented recipe for chai was discovered in the ancient Indian medical text called the Ayurveda. In fact, a lot of the chai that we drink to this day differs very little from what was found in that literature.
Now, if you were to walk down the busy streets of India you would find it difficult to avoid a “chai-wallah” (someone who sells chai) and their interpretation of the spiced tea. It has become a staple of the culture with varying recipes passed down throughout families. One person once likened it to chili in the U.S. Obviously chili doesn’t have the same history, but it is something that almost every family has their own recipe, varying slightly from house to house.
One factor in determining the differences in chai is geography. India is a huge country with different religions, languages, and preferences in tea. The style of chai that most of us have tried comes from the Assam region of India, which is also where chai is believed to originate from. Some of the staple ingredients in an Assam chai are cinnamon, clove, cardamom, black pepper, ginger, and of course, Assam black tea. This is the style that Gray Duck Chai most closely resembles and has become the foundation anytime we play with a new blend of spices.
So, what is chai? have I answered every lingering question you have ever had about this spiced tea in a couple short paragraphs? Definitely not. But I hope you have, at least, a slightly better understanding of it’s long standing throughout history and where it stands today. If you have anything to add please feel free to leave a comment below and we can keep the discussion going.