Now that winter is well and truly here and our incredible Kiwi summer is a distant memory it is time to hunker down with some therapeutic toasty beverages to keep us warm and healthy.
Chai is a big favourite of mine as it is a creamier alternative to herbal tea (which I find doesn’t quite have the nourishing factor!) and is a healthier version of a milky flat white!
Unlike coffee, Chai has many inherently beneficial properties. According to Ayurvedic philosophy and medicine, Chai spices are considered to be ‘Sattvic:’ calming, vitalizing and mentally clarifying, the perfect antidote to the stresses of modern life. Often a café bought Chai can taste amazing but may be filed with excess sweetener and lacking in beneficial spices – so why not make your own!
Benefits of Spices in Chai
Used to remedy a number of ailments. Researchers around the world are finding that ginger works wonders. Here are just a few of the many ailments that it can be used to treat:
- Morning/motion sickness
- Helps in the reduction of pain and inflammation (a natural painkiller)
- Cold and flu prevention
- Migraine relief
- Menstrual cramp relief
Not only does it taste good, but it makes you feel good too. Here are a few of its beneficial properties:
- Regulates blood sugar levels
- Helps reduce LDL cholesterol levels
- Contains natural anti-infectious compounds
- Reduces pain linked with arthritis
Have a therapeutic role in the following conditions:
- Food poisoning
- Athlete’s foot
- Skin disorders such as acne
- Symptoms of flu, bronchitis, sinus conditions, coughs and asthma
- Gum and tooth disorders
Known in India as ‘Choti elaichi,’ cardamom is considered an extremely useful medicine.
- Improves digestion
- Helps reduce stomach cramps
- Eases suffering from flatulence and gas
- Cleanses the body
- Improves circulation to the lungs; may treat asthma and bronchitis
- Stimulates appetite; may relieve stomach acidity
A spice you may not think of as having a large amount of healing properties, but below are just a few.
- Improves digestion
- Helps decrease intestinal gas
- Prevents heartburn and constipation
- Anti-bacterial agent
- Rich in anti-oxidants; contains high levels of vitamin A and C
- Assists in controlling blood pressure and heart rate
Often, black tea is compared with the negative aspects of coffee. Below are some of the positive reasons for drinking black tea.
- Skin and hair health
- Abundant in anti-oxidants such as flavonoids, demonstrated to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol
- Contains caffeine and the amino acid, L-Theanine, which increases mental focus and concentration
- Oral health–polyphenols and tannin perform as antibiotics, preventing bacteria that causes tooth decay and bad breath
- Contains abundance of tannins, which fight viruses and influenza, dysentery and hepatitis
I have included 2 recipes. The first is using fresh whole spices for when you have more time and the 2nd is for when time is short, using good quality ground spices.
Recipe 1: Masala Chai Fresh Tea
Makes 1 cup serving
- 3/4 cup water
- 2 to 4 whole green cardamom pods, smashed
- 1 to 2 thin slices fresh ginger
- Half cinnamon stick
- 1 piece star anise
- 3 peppercorns
- 3 cloves
- 3/4 cup milk (almond/oat/coconut)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons loose black tea leaves or a single tea bag
- Sweetener, to taste (I prefer honey or maple syrup)
In a small saucepan, combine the water, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon stick and star anise.
Bring the mixture to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for a few minutes until the mixture is fragrant.
Add the milk and tea leaves, and simmer for another minute then turn off the heat and let steep for 2 minutes.
Pour into a cup through a fine mesh sieve. Discard the leaves and spices. Add sweetener, to taste.
Recipe 2: Masala Chai Ground Spice Tea
You can grind the whole spices (except for ginger – use ground) or simply purchase the ground spice
- An old glass jar to reuse
- 2 tsp whole black peppercorns (1/2 tbsp ground)
- 2 cinnamon sticks (2 tbsp ground)
- 2 tbsp ground ginger
- 6 cardamom pods (1 tbsp ground)
- 1/2 cup of milk
- 1/cup of water
- 2 teaspoons of black tea such as Ceylon or Assam
- Sweetener of choice to taste
Grind the spices by whizzing them in a spice or coffee grinder, then sift each spice with a fine-mesh sifter and return any large pieces of spices to the grinder to powder them further (SKIP THIS STEP IF USING GROUND NOT WHOLE SPICES).Combine the ground spices in a jar and mix well.
Combine milk, water, black tea and the 1/2 teaspoon of the chai masala mixture made in step 1.
Bring the water, milk, spice mixture, and tea to a slow simmer.
Cover and remove from the heat. Allow to steep for 5 minutes.
Strain carefully into a cup and sweeten to taste.
This blog and the associated recipes was written by Natalie Wallace – Programme Leader, Level 7