Can you feel it? The seasons are changing—the days are shorter, the air crisper, and the sweaters are coming back out. We’re at the doorstep of fall. This is the perfect time to come into Cedar’s for a steaming cup of our authentic masala chai.
“Masala” is a South Asian term for a spice or herb mixture—our masala is made from cardamom pods, fennel seeds, whole black pepper corns and cloves. We also add a little ginger and cinnamon. These spices are boiled with a strong black tea (usually Assam) in water until all the flavors have been extracted. Add sugar to taste—at Cedar’s, we like the spiciness of the masala to come through, and aim to make our chai a balanced treat that’s not too sweet.
Unlike many international tea drinks, traditional Indian chai is cooked with the milk for the best possible fusion of flavors. The spices in the masala are aromatic compounds, which are composed of molecules that contain a structure (called a benzene ring) that dissolves best in alcohol or fats (similar to how curry paste tastes its best with coconut milk). Adding whole milk, and never skim, maximizes the extraction of flavors during cooking. In many parts of India, they it’s common to find chai made with milk from buffalo.
In India, no one says “chai tea,” because—like saying “ATM machine—“ chai already means “tea” in Hindi. It comes from the Persian word chay (چای), which originated from the Chinese word, chá (茶). Indians rarely drank tea for pleasure until the British began encouraging factories, mines, and textile mills to provide tea breaks for their workers in order to promote wide-spread tea consumption in India to create a market to rival China. Now, chai is ubiquitous in Indian culture. Many of the components of the masala make it a perfect after-dinner digestive aid, but it’s also nice to just sip a cup on your walk to class or share a chai with a friend. Stop by Cedar’s to try our house recipe—we guarantee it’ll be your new favorite fall drink. And our refills are free!
Before Indians drank chai for pleasure, they drank it for medicinal purposes. And if its great taste isn’t reason enough, here are a few of the health benefits from the ingredients:
- Fennel: Loaded with antioxidants and antimicrobials; digestive and metabolic aid
- Ginger: Fights nausea (often taken for morning sickness or post-operative nausea), gas, and indigestion
- Cinnamon: Higher in antioxidants than even “superfoods” like garlic; anti-inflammatory that repair tissue damage; improves sensitivity to insulin
- Cloves: Great source of manganese; anti-inflammatory
- Black Pepper: Outer layer of peppercorn assists in breakdown of fat cells; fights congestion; high in vitamins C and K
Flu and cold season are also nearly upon us—if you feel a little under the weather, reach for Cedar’s masala chai!