In India, Tulsi Chai, made from holy basil (Ocimum sanctum), is used to treat colds and reduce stress.
Photo by Howard Lee Puckett
Sensuous, soothing and simply irresistible, chai is the ideal accompaniment for savory scones … a perfect break on a busy afternoon … a satisfying finish to a holiday dinner with family and friends.
Derived from the Chinese chá, “chai” means tea in much of the world, including Asia, Eastern Europe, parts of Africa and Brazil. Masala chai is an aromatic blend of black or green tea with warming spices. Sugar and milk often are included, as well.
Travel to India, Nepal and Tibet, where masala chai originated, and you’ll likely see vendors peddling the tasty brew on street corners or at train stations. According to Ayurvedic tradition, masala chai boosts the immune system, enhances metabolism, relieves stress, aids digestion and sharpens the mind.
You can find hundreds of chai recipes associated with different locales, restaurants and even families. Preparation methods vary, too—some aficionados insist on boiling the tea, spices and milk together, while others take a gentler approach, briefly steeping the tea leaves and spices in hot water, then adding hot milk and sweetener last.
The following recipes are three twists on this long-loved delight. Experiment by adding fennel seeds, coriander seeds, nutmeg, star anise, and lemon or orange peel to create your own favorite blend.
• Gentle Green Chai
• Tulsi Chai
• Basic Black Chai
Garden writer and editor Vicki Mattern has been communicating the beauty and usefulness of plants for more than 20 years. She lives in eastern Pennsylvania.