An infusion of black tea, aniseed, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, cloves and chicory roots
Chai, or masala chai to use its proper name (meaning ‘spiced tea’ in Hindi) may be a fairly recent arrival in Britain, but it follows an old formula in India, where they have been drinking infusions of spices as health tonics for thousands of years. Aromatic, invigorating flavours such as aniseed, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, cloves and chicory roots are old favourites of traditional herbal medicine. So when tea drinking took off in India back in Victorian times, it was only natural to throw these spices into the mix.
The rest is a tale of colonisation in reverse. The British Raj promoted tea as an everyday drink for working Indians, serving it up with a dash of milk and sugar, naturally. But when the state-sponsored Indian tea sellers sold it, they drenched it in milk and sugar and added their age-old blends of spices. This was frowned upon by the colonial rulers who supplied the tea, not least because cutting it with other ingredients watered down their profits. Yet masala chai not only outlived the British presence in India – in the last few decades it has caught on back in Blighty and all over the world.
To make spicy chai the authentic way you must boil up coarse black tea leaves in a large pan with spices and milk, and leave them to simmer slowly. However, it is not always recommended to disappear into the office kitchen on a tea round and come back an hour later with a bubbling cauldron.
Here is the next best thing, and one of our most popular sellers: strong black tea combined with characteristic Indian spices, convenient for brewing in hot water and ready for lashings of milk and sugar.