Introduction to Tea - Chai

Introduction to Tea - Chai

The first tea I fell in love with was Indian Spiced Tea - "Masala Chai".
While studying Yoga at an Ashram, and managing the kitchen as sous chef, I had to learn to make Masala Chai for the "special guests", including Madhvi (the most prolific Indian actress of all time, I think), and royalty.

The recipe I used was simple: fine qualtiy CTC Assam, Ginger, Cardamon, Sugar, Water, and Milk.
Two pots, one for water, tea, ginger, and the other for milk and sugar.
The freshly ground Cardamon goes in right at end to ensure the volitile oils are fresh and potent!

A little History

"Chai" means "Tea"

When we think of "Chai" in the USA we think of "Tea with a Blend of Spices" - literally "Masala Chai".

The word "Chai" comes from the Northarn Chinese (Mandarin) "Cha", whicj means "Tea". English gets the "tea" prounciation from the Southern Min Nan Chinese. There is some debate if they are dialects or seperate langauages, but that's a different topic.

"Chai" likely came from Persian "chay" which passed overland to Persia picking up the grammatical suffix -yi. It was finally introduced into India by the Mughals, and entered English via Hindi-Urdu.

Check out this Wiki article that covers the Eytomology of Tea if you are interested.

Scottish Morn by Harney and Sons
Scottish Morn - Harney and Sons

Which Chai to choose?

If you are making your own Chai from scratch I suggest either Harney's CTC Assam, or the mostly CTC based Scottish Morn.
I use the latter (pictured above).

CTC, or "Cut,  Tear, and Curl", is a process whereby tea is CTC'd into pellets by machines while harvesting. The pellets oxidize very quickly with no undue subtly or complexity - but plenty of flavor.
Most Assam is CTC. It's cheap and strong - and goes well with milk!

Spices and flavor:

My preference is generally for a very simple Chai - no Cinnamon, and light on the cloves (if you must).
Cinnamon lovers, be adviced to use broken chunks of rather than a fine ground powder.

It can be interesting to add very subtle hints of almond, rose, or other extracts - but be careful not to go overboard!

Looking for a blend?

First off, let me reccomend this "Explore Chai" gift set!
I think it's important to explore the incredible variety of tea, and this is a good start. One wouldn't want to store fine green tea, but all of these teas have a pretty long shelf life. All the better for the collecting!

Harney and Sons Chai Supreme Gift Box

Included you will find instructions for brewing Chai, a perfect tea scoop, and a filter for preparing single servings.

With These Teas!

Chocolate Chai Supreme by Harney and Sons

Chocolate Chai Supreme

Black tea with ginger root, cardamom seeds, chocolate flavor, cardamom flavor, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom pods, cinnamon chips, and natural vanilla flavor.

"Chai" from Harney and Sons
"Chai" from Harney and Sons


With cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom seeds, ground cloves, and natural cardamom and vanilla flavor.

For the caffine sensitive,

Rooibos Chai

Ingredients: Rooibos, coriander seed, fennel seed, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and natural cardamom flavor.

Chai Hara by Harney and Sons
Chai Hara by Harney and Sons

Chai Hara

"Hara" means "green" in Hindi.
This green tea base is blended with cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, and ginger.

Not found in the gift set:

Indian Spice by Harney and Sons
Indian Spice by Harney and Sons

Indian Spice

For those looking for a simple classic Chai.

And, If you are looking for something unique!

Kangra Kahwa by Harney and Sons
Kangra Kahwa by Harney and Sons

Kangra Kahwa

You will have to wait till they restock, but this tea is very interesting, and not what comes to mind for most people when they think of "Chai".

The Kangra tea from the Himachal Pradesh region is a unique base tea compared to the Assam which is so popular, and the traditional spice blend of the Himachal Pradesh region will be unfamiliar to most!
I enjoy it as is, but it is traditional to sweeten and serve with crushed almonds.
I will link here to more details about this tea, and The Hockey Foundation later when I interview Alex about it (they get 50% of sales of this tea).

Ingredients: Kangra tea, cinnamon chips, ground cinnamon, cardamom seeds, cardamom pods,  whole cloves, safflowers, ground cloves, and natural almond flavor.

Last, but not least..

Chai Consentrate

Chai Concentrate

Because, sometimes you need to consentrate on something other than making tea for a party.

Mix equal parts with milk (or substitute).
One half gallon of concentrate makes 1 gallon of Sweet Chai!

Ingredients: Filtered water, evaporated cane sugar, select black tea, organic cocoa extract, citric acid, and natural flavors.

I'll add some recipies for cooking with this concentrate later!

Don't forget your Tea Shirt!

I wear my Harney shirts all the time, and now I want this one!

Harney and Sons Tea Shirt "Me, Myself, and Chai"
Harney and Sons Tea Shirt, "Me, Myself, and Chai"