Chai-Wallah

With the cool weather on the approach, I decided it was a great time to turn your attention to spices in tea. I know that a lot of us tend to gravitate towards spicier blends in the fall and winter because of all the goodness and warmth the spices add to our favourite cup. But I would like to ask – when we choose a tea with spices, do we stop and appreciate each ingredient the same way we appreciate tea leaves or wine grapes?

Spices have been around for centuries, traded alongside ebony, silk, fine textiles and even precious stones. The first glimpse of spice trade has been traced as far back as the Neolithic period. Pretty impressive, is it not? So why is it that we know so little about what seems to be an everyday, simple addition to our favourite meals and beverages? At one point in history, each spice we now consume has been equated to the price of gold. It is a shame that we forget how valuable spices are and how much taste and character they add to our favourite dishes. I am not going to go into detail about the history of spices, but I will tell you this – you won’t be disappointed by the rich history of these extraordinary, aromatic and flavourful vegetative substances. I strongly advise you to dig deep and uncover all the secrets of the spice trade, I guarantee it will blow you away.

The Tea Emporium is proud to be carrying a selection of teas with spices that have been carefully selected over time. The most notable form our line of Chai teas is the Kashmiri Chai blend.  We drafted our Kashmiri Chai after the most notable spiced tea – the Masala Chai. The original Masala Chai consists of black tea mixed with Indian spices and herbs, taking its origin from South Asia. The traditional way of preparing Masala Chai is by simmering the mixture of milk and water with spices and loose leaf tea. The masala (spices) in the chai (tea) typically consist of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and pepper. The interesting thing about this beverage is that it has no fixed recipe and many families have their own versions passed down from generation to generation. The base of the Masala Chai is usually an Assam tea, favoured over other types because of its full bodied character that works best with the spices and sweeteners without overpowering the ingredients. The traditional Masala Chai also includes sugar, mostly brown sugar, but sometimes honey is used instead. And of course no Masala Chai is complete without milk (traditionally in India, buffalo milk was added, however over time, regular milk has been the norm).

I guess what I am trying to say is that just like anything in life, this special beverage should not be taken for granted. Just like tea leaves are individually plucked and processed, spices are grown and cultivated – with care, precision and knowledge. Each spice, each leaf carries a historical weight and its own story. So next time you pick up your favourite cup of Masala Chai, let it speak to you, listen to its secrets and don’t forget to share yours.