Chai: A Blend of Traditions
with Suzanne Klein
Chief Yummy Officer
The history of the chai we know today is, appropriately, a blend of varying cultures, traditions and spices. The word “chai” is actually the Hindi word for “tea.” (So, when we say, “chai tea,” we’re actually saying, “tea tea.”)
Legend has it that the origin of chai dates back more than 5,000 years, when a king in ancient India ordered a healing spiced beverage be created for use in Ayurveda, a traditional medicinal practice in which herbs and spices are used for healing. The heat from ginger and black pepper was believed to stimulate digestion; the antiseptic properties in cloves were thought to help relieve pain; cardamom was used as a mood elevator; cinnamon supported circulation and respiratory function; and star anise was known to freshen the breath. As the healing beverage spread across India, a wide variety of spices were used to prepare the drink, depending on the region of the continent or even the neighborhood where the beverage was being made.
Believe it or not, original versions of “masala chai”, or “spiced tea,” contained no actual tea leaves. Milk and sugar were also later additions to the famous drink. The addition of black tea leaves, milk, and sugar were popularized thousands of years later (in the mid-1800s) when the Camellia sinensis assamica tea plant variety was discovered in India and cultivated by the British, who ruled continent at the time and had an insatiable desire for strong black tea with milk and sugar.
Chai has reached unprecedented popularity and can be found as a beverage in most coffee shops. We encourage you take this blend out of the teacup and try infusing those warm, sweet flavors into both sweet and savory dishes as well as drinks this cold-weather season. Below are some of our favorite recipes using our two chai-inspired seasonings.
Infusions with Chai Spices
Our whole Chai Spices blend harkens to the ancient Indian masala chai blend and contains only spices (no tea leaves.) It makes a warm and spicy beverage, but it can also be used to infused chai flavor into all kinds of dishes from savory to sweet.
A few Chai Spices recipes:
- Chai Tea: This recipe for the ultimate fall sipping beverage is so good you’ll want to make the full batch. For a single serving, simply steep 1 to 2 tsp. of the Chai Spices in water and or milk with 1 to 2 tsp. black tea (or 1 to 2 tea bags) and sweeten with brown sugar or honey to taste.
- Chai Caramel Sauce: Chai Spices steeped in heavy cream provide the chai-infused flavor for this easy caramel sauce. Try it on ice cream, drizzled on cheesecake, or as a dip for crisp apples.
- Chai Spice Infused Sweet Potato Bisque: Chai Spices are tucked in a muslin bag and simmered with the sweet potatoes and broth to create the perfect fall-flavored soup.
Baking (and more) with Mt. Baker
Our new Mt. Baker Chai Spice Seasoning is essentially a chai-flavored baking spice. It’s a ground version of whole chai spices that can be used in place of Baking Spice, Pumpkin Pie Spice, Chinese Five Spice…you name it. It has a peppery kick that makes it great for seasoning savory dishes as well.
A few Mt. Baker recipes:
- Grilled Chai Pork Chops & Gravy: An apple cider and black tea brine seasoned with our Chai Spice Seasoning and Onion & Garlic Tableside Sprinkle puts a sweet and savory twist on the classic pork chop.
- Chai Spiced Nuts:You know those leftover mixed nuts you have after holiday parties? This is a great way to use those up. Follow the directions in the notes of this recipe and swap out the Pumpkin Pie Spice with Chai Spice Seasoning.
- Chai Pound Cake: This really is the perfect tea cake—eating it is like biting into a cup of chai.