Ah Chai!

Ah Chai!

The latest health drink of the West is a beverage that is widely consumed throughout the length and breadth of India. What is the thing we need first...

The latest health drink of the West is a beverage that is widely consumed throughout the length and breadth of India. What is the thing we need first in the morning, at four o clock with our snacks or when you are catching up with your friends? A steaming hot cup of masala chai obviously!

Whether it’s brought fresh from your kitchen or by your local chaiwala; chai and chatting go hand in hand. We are a country where chai is synonymous with water and drinking chai at any given point of time during the day is never a problem for us.

Legend has it that one day when Buddha was meditating and he started feeling drowsy so he plucked an eyelash to wake himself up, and that fallen eyelash grew into the first chai plant. A drink that is incorporated in our blood systems since we have been consuming it for more than 2,500 years is now being recognised in the West as a healing drink.

The West calls it “chai tea”, which essentially translates as “chai chai” making this name unnecessary as chai is the Indian name for tea. Chai tea in the West is sold in cafes, restaurants or even in readymade premixed tea bags, which can be bought in stores.

Whether you call it chai, tea or chai tea, it doesn’t matter; the health benefits derived from this drink are innumerable. Another legend claims that the Sanjeevani plant, which was given to Laxman, the brother of Lord Rama is actually the chai plant.

What exactly is chai? A good Indian tea is made of chai masala a concoction of green cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, ground cloves, ground ginger, and black peppercorn together with black tea leaves.

This masala is added to a mixture of boiling water and milk and then boiled for a few minutes, strained and served. This instantly peps you up. It is normally sweetened with sugar but one can sweeten the chai by preferably adding raw honey, jaggery or stevia instead of sugar.

This fragrant, sweet and spicy masala chai is an extraordinary drink not just in taste but in its contribution to a healthier you. The “masala” of this chai provides the added health benefits over regular tea. Chai is loaded with antioxidants which help prevent free radicals from causing any damage to the body.

The trio of spices, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves together has antibacterial properties. Individually, cinnamon helps boost heart health as it decreases blood pressure levels and reduces insulin resistance, cardamom reduces cardiovascular disease risks plus is an anti-depressant and cloves possess anti-inflammatory properties, which have the ability to relieve general pains and inflammations. It’s safe for pregnant women; the ginger in chai provides relief from nausea. Chai can also help one shed the pounds as it reduces hunger cravings and promotes satiety.

Chai for an Indian is an antidote, making one feel solace with its imbibing flavours. A good cup of tea refreshes places where other beverages cannot reach. One can have chai for any and everything. Irritated waiting for the train? Have chai. Chatting with friends? Have a cutting chai. Sleepy? Let a cup of chai wake you up. Exhausted?

Have a chai to revive yourself. Mood off? Drink a chai to kick the blues. Feeling cold? A cup of chai can beat the chill. Sniffles? Rid it with a cup of chai. Want extra pocket-money? Make chai for your parents. Strike a deal? Over chai. Aspire to be the Prime Minister of India? Make and sell chai.

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