MASALA CHAI TEA

On those days when it’s either raining or cool outside, or  you are just craving to have some comforting and spicy hot tea to cuddle up with your favorite book, MASALA CHAI  could just be “Your cup of tea”!

Masala Chai originated in India and it’s a beverage that incorporates black tea (Chai means tea) with aromatic herbs and Indian spices (masala). It has now become a very popular tea that you can actually buy in some coffee houses and you can even purchase the already made tea bags which contain similar flavors.

However, there is nothing like preparing the home made version of this aromatic tea as it will inundate your kitchen with a spicy and delicious fragrance quickly attracting your family members to gather around the stove in delightful anticipation.

Not only this tea is very easy to make but there are some wonderful properties of some of these spices that are worth while taking a closer look at.

There are many different spices and recipes to make this tea, I guess it also depends on what you have at hand at home as well as a matter of individual taste, so you can be as creative as you want with this tea and make your own tailored brew.

Here is a list of some of the many spices that can be included in the mix:

Ginger root, green cardamom pods, vanilla bean pods, star anise, whole cloves, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and peppercorns. Please scroll down for the recipe. I’ve also seen it made with additional herbs and spices such as a couple of Bay leaves, and nutmeg.

  • Ginger is a root that is generally well known for its medicinal properties against nausea, motion sickness, and lack of appetite. It is also know to help with digestive problems, blood sugar balance, the common cold, and even muscle pain, arthritic pain and menstrual pain. It’s a root that is closely related to turmeric. Some studies even suggest the evidence of cholesterol reduction and lowering the risk of infections. The natural oil in ginger namely gingerol, is responsible for the anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory effects. Ginger also reduces dizziness, minimizes symptoms of the common cold, allergies and other respiratory conditions. Ginger root in and of itself makes a delicious tea by just boiling a few slices of peeled ginger, especially if you are not feeling well, it’s soothing, comforting and healing.
  • Green Cardamom, the Queen of spices. Similarly to ginger it also aids in digestion, nausea, bloating gas, stomach acidity or heartburn, appetite loss, constipation, etc. The many phytonutrients in cardamom improve blood circulation, which is also heart protective, and cancer protective. Cardamom is considered in many traditional medicines as having some of the following properties: antiseptic, antispasmodic, diuretic, expectorant, and carminative (gas prevention thus reduction of flatulence and bloating). In addition, cardamom is rich in minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium and manganese (which helps promote the production of enzymes that destroy free radicals assisting in the detoxifying functions of the body). As with everything, if you have any allergies or concerns if you are taking certain medications please check with you doctor because there could be interactions with prescribed medications such as HIV drugs, anticoagulants, antidepressants, liver medications, aspirin, gallstone medications,  irritable bowel syndrome or anti-platelets medications. Some side effects can also occur if cardamom is consumed in very large quantities such as allergic reactions.
  • Vanilla beans also rich in a variety of minerals such as Manganese, Potassium, Calcium, Iron and Zinc. Vanilla may also have the ability to combat fungal and bacterial infections as well as it has some mild antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Vanilla scent is relaxing and it is even recommended by some realtors to have this calming scent in your home when you are trying to sell your house or apartment because it affects the hormones and the neurotransmitters of the brain enhancing the mood and promoting a general feeling of calm and relaxation.
  • Star Anise is such a beautiful looking spice deriving its name from its shape as a star. Originated in China, with a fragrance and flavor that is licorice or anise like. It is used as a perfume as well as incense in religious temples in Asia. In addition, it is considered to have anti-fungal, antibacterial, expectorant and antioxidant properties. It can help alleviate PMS symptoms with a similar action as the hormone estrogen. It helps to regulate blood sugar levels in diabetes. In addition, star anise is loaded with vitamins such as Vitamin C, vitamin A, B complex and minerals such as Calcium and phosphorous. Star anise can be used as a tea by itself, just boiling it in water. I remember that this was one of my grandmother‘s favorites, she was my mentor in her passion for plants and herbs and she used to teach me all about their uses in cooking as well as their medicinal properties. Star anise was in the past, very commonly used for babies when they were having gas pain and star anise was added to their bottles, however; this practice is no longer recommended since 2001 because if it’s taken in great quantities or by very small babies or infants it can cause toxicity.

Whole cloves are the dried unopened buds of the pink flowers of a tree. Cloves are commonly used in cooking and for their medicinal properties. We are all familiar with “clove’s oil” used for toothaches due to its anesthetic and analgesic properties.  Well, it is also an antiviral, antibacterial and it’s a “super” antioxidant (especially protective of the liver).  Cloves are good expectorants making it easier to cough up phlegm. Clove oil can help relieve muscle spasms, help with insomnia and it is said to work better than citronella when it comes to repelling mosquitoes. Rich in vitamins such as vitamin K, vitamin C, B12, B6, vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin D. It’s also loaded with minerals like Manganese, Iron, Magnesium, Calcium, Phosphorus, and Zinc as well as Omega-3 fatty acids. Cloves can also help to relax the smooth lining of the gastrointestinal tract thus alleviating vomiting and diarrhea. In addition, it’s believed to have aphrodisiac properties and to aid in preventing bad breath or halitosis.

Coriander seeds. These seeds are used for cooking as well as for their medicinal properties as far back as 5,000 BC. The coriander plant is also known as “cilantro” a delicious herb used extensively for flavoring in culinary recipes. Knows as the anti-diabetic plant in certain part of Europe, for its anti-inflammatory properties in India, and studied for its cholesterol lowering effects and anti-histamine properties helping to reduce seasonal allergies and hay fever. Coriander seeds contain an antibacterial compound that naturally fights salmonella. They are also rich in phytonutrients and a good source of Copper, Manganese, high in Iron content, Magnesium and Calcium as well as fiber, amino acids and fatty acids. It is also known for its anti-arthritic and anti-rheumatic properties. There are very few danger associated with possible sensitivities to coriander but for additional information please check references below.

  • Fennel seeds: Popularly known as a “breath freshener”, offered in some Indian restaurants instead of candy mints. Fennel seeds are also known for their role as an antioxidant, diuretic (relieves water retention), antimicrobial, antispasmodic and carminative (reducing flatulence and bloating), etc. They are rich in vitamin C, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc, iron and fiber. They also suppress appetite and create a sense of fullness while boosting metabolism and the breakdown of fats. It can relieve eye strain and irritation and research is currently studying certain compounds in fennel seeds that could prevent certain eye diseases such as retinopathy (vision loss in diabetes).
  • Peppercorns, the king of the spices: Black pepper comes from a woody flowering vine that can grow bigger than 30 feet in tropical climates. The fruit of the vine is dried which is known as the peppercorns. It has been used as a spice in India for thousands of years. It was once considered “black gold” and used as a trade currency. It was a luxury and a symbol of the elite class from Roman times up to the time of the middle Ages. It was also offered to Gods in rituals. It’s a wonderful compliment to most dishes and it stimulates the taste buds, increasing hydrochloric acid production and thus promoting good digestion. Known as a carminative it also aids in decreasing gas formation and flatulence. It’s known to have diuretic and diaphoretic (promotes sweating)) properties as well as antioxidant and antibacterial effects. It’s also a great source of vitamin K, potassium, copper, chromium, iron, manganese and calcium.DSC00673_Fotor

MASALA CHAI RECIPE:

·        10 to 12 whole cloves

·        1 or 2 star anise

·        1 to 2 cinnamon sticks

·        1 tablespoon of fennel seeds

·        5 to 8 cardamom pods

·        6 to 8 peppercorns

·        1 piece of ginger root peeled and diced about ¼ to ½ inch depending on your taste.

·        2 tea bags (your choice of black tea, Darjeeling or Orange pekoe) or 2 tablespoons of loose tea.

·        7 cups of water and 1 cup of milk

Boil the water with all the spices for about 5 to 10 minutes then add the tea bags or loose tea, reduce the heat, bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes and finally add the milk (with about 2 to 4 tablespoons of sugar if you wish). Remove from the fire and pour tea through a fine-mesh sieve into a teapot. Discard the spices and tea bags.  It renders 8 cups of tea. This tea is usually served already sweetened, however; I prepare the tea without the sugar and serve the teapot with a sugar bowl on the side so everyone can sweeten the tea as desired.DSC00674_Fotor

 

I try to stay away from sugar as much as possible, however; I find that this tea’s full spicy flavor it’s truly enhanced when it is sweetened. Some alternatives to white processed sugar are stevia, agave, organic honey or coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is derived from the coconut palm tree. It’s a natural sugar made by tapping on the flowers of the palm tree and making a cut so the sap starts flowing and it’s collected in bamboo containers. Then the sap is placed in large woks over moderate heat allowing the water to evaporate and the final product is a crystal known as coconut sugar. It has been widely used in South East Asia for thousands of years. This sugar does retain some nutrients because it’s not highly processed as white refined sugar. Some of those nutrients are fatty acids, antioxidants and minerals like Iron, Zinc, calcium, potassium. In addition, it contains a fiber known as “inulin” which slows glucose absorption and this is why coconut sugar seems to have a lower glycemic index than white sugar.

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Finally, aside from the benefits of the spices in this tea, there is the absolute delight and enjoyment that you will experience when savoring this satisfying homemade brew with pizzazz.

So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and spice up your life!