Now a staple in kitchen pantries and coffee shops worldwide, masala, or 'spiced' chai tea has a rich history that dates some 5, 000 - 9, 000 years. It’s roots set in an ancient, royal court of all places. Rich in legend, origin dates are unclear, but what's known is it was developed by a king as a cleansing Ayurvedic beverage. Ayurveda is one of the most ancient forms of medicine and still in use today. (*more on that in a future post)
Masala has always been prepared with a variety of spices but here the uniformity ends. It's varieties numerous, it has often been served both hot and cold. It didn't always contain tea leaves and was originally caffeine-free. It isn't until the mid 1800s, when Great Britain set up colonies in India, and started growing black tea there to offset the dependency on Chinese supply, that it gradually made its way to the local recipe.
As the century turned, British black tea remained the most expensive ingredient in the beloved chai concoction but had grown more prevalent in local recipes. To cut expenses and make the cherished leaf go further, locals started cutting the chai recipe with milks and sugars.
When black tea finally became mass produced and agricultural practices changed, in the 60s, though not necessarily for the better, it was finally affordable to the masses. This new tea strain went well with the sweet and spice of the masala and so it remains today.
Over the last few decades, chai has established itself firmly in the western world. However, much of this mix is a far cry from the traditional recipe of some thousand years past. Often derived from sugar-filled syrup, real spices are rarely included in what we serve in coffee shops out here.
I’m not known for my traditional mind but in creating the chai recipe used in this season's Apana Granola, I recognized that the oldest medical system of human history may have something on me and so I did my best to honour this. Dirty Chocolate Chai & Pistachio is this season’s best. Heat generated, and soul sweetening, it’s exactly what I need to beet the chill, I’m sure you’ll agree.