If anyone knows Carmen they know I can find humor in everyday mundane things. For example, when I’m working remotely at a coffee shop, I always chuckle when I hear people at the counter ordering chai tea lattes. You might ask what’s so funny about that. Well friends, chai is the Hindi word for tea, which originally comes from the Chinese word cha (as well as Korean), so here in the West, we’re literally asking for a tea-tea. Now do you see the humor?
Anyhoo, I love chai. It’s warm and inviting, sweet and creamy, and spicy. Masala chai means mixed-spice tea. So, similar to the garam masala food spice mix, it is composed of a wonderful mix of black tea, milk, sugar and various aromatic, pungent and spicy herbs. Drinking a nice warm, creamy cup of chai is a wonderful way to get a daily dose of an array of beneficial herbs.
The tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is loved across the globe and provides a very refreshing drink in all its formulations. The story goes that Indian tea or Assam was used mostly for medicinal and rejuvenative purposes in ancient times. The grandmothers would mix in spices to treat colds, flu, digestion issues, and stomach complaints among other common issues. The version of this drink that we are most familiar with now supposedly stems from the colonization of the Indian tea fields by the British in the 1800’s and influences of traders passing through the region. Tea was a luxury at the time for most of the populace, so by adding just a small amount of tea, it could be stretched by adding a lot of water and milk, and the flavor enhanced with spices.
I drink chai all year round. But I especially like it when there’s a chill in the air or if I’m feeling a bit under the weather. I had been drinking a chemical-laden, overly sweet version from a popular coffee shop chain that came from a premixed bottle concentrate. I developed my own recipe a few years ago to guarantee myself a healthier dose of this regenerative brew.
First, let’s take a look at the great benefits of the herbs included in the following recipe. Now keep in mind, this is just my favorite combination. Chai herbs can vary widely depending on preference. My brew infuses cardamom, cinnamon, clove, black pepper corns, ginger, fennel, and a strong Assam loose leaf black tea.
In order for you to brew up your own batch of Marsala chai, you’ll need the following:
- 6 cups water
- 4 cardamom pods, cracked
- 2-2” cinnamon sticks
- ¼”-1/2” chunk of fresh ginger, sliced
- 4 cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon of dried fennel
- 10 black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon, heaping Assam black loose leaf tea (If you can’t find it loose, cut open teabag and use equivalent amount of contents)
- 2 cups milk (dairy or non-dairy)
- ¼ cup sugar (You can use more or less sugar to taste, and whatever sweetener you prefer.)
- Add all the spices to an empty sauce pan turn the heat to medium and toast for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the water and tea, and raise heat to high and bring to a boil.
- Boil for 5-7 minutes until the tea is black and has reduced slightly.
- Reduce heat to simmer and add the milk and stir until hot.
- Strain and add the sugar to taste.
Carmen Hartsfield is completing her Masters of Science degree in Therapeutic Herbalism. She is currently creating a new line of herbal wellness teas. Some of her herbal writings can be viewed at www.carmensherbal.wordpress.com. She is also an artist and designer who loves cooking and yoga.
Jillian Carnrick, founder and manager of The Dancing Herbalist, has a Masters of Science Degree in Herbal Medicine, practices as a nutritionist, and is a Certified Personal Trainer and Exercise Is Medicine Professional through the American College of Sports Medicine. The Dancing Herbalist posts on this blog every Thursday. For more posts from The Dancing Herbalist, join us on Patreon. Join Jillian for live classes in The Dancing Herbalist’s home herbalist courses online for more learning opportunities or work one-on-one with Jillian with her wellness and herbal consultations.