Recipe Share: Chai, a Nourishing Winter Warmer
Anyone visiting The Yoga Institute’s premises since the start of Autumn will be familiar with the aromatic presence of enchanting warm spices diffusing throughout the office of an afternoon. We have been enjoying an afternoon chai on a regular basis, patiently brewed by Michael and shared around as a soothing and uplifting treat.
Here we look at the benefits of chai, and offer a beautiful home-made recipe that you can try from yoga therapy faculty member, Dr Shaun Matthews, holistic GP and Ayurveda and Yoga Therapist.
What is Chai?
In the west, we tend to use the term “chai tea”, but chai actually means tea in Hindi, so in India you would be asking for a tea tea! It’s most accurately termed masala chai, spiced tea. In yogic circles you may hear it referred to more simply as CHAI.
Chai is a base of black tea with added spices. The particular combination of spices can vary according to preference. The most commonly added spices include ginger, cinnamon and cardamon, but it can also run to the inclusion of spices such as nutmeg, turmeric, clove, fennel, peppercorn and star anise.
Individual taste will also guide the inclusion (or absence) of a plant or dairy milk, and sweetener.
Should you be drinking chai?
Tea in general has a swag of evidence-based health benefits. The spices themselves then also have specific health benefits. Most chai is made from black tea, sourced from the Camellia sinensis plant, same as green and oolong teas. (It is also possible to make a caffeine-free version from rooibos tea, sourced from the Aspalathus linearis plant).
The most common ingredients – black tea, cinnamon, ginger and cardamon – have collectively been attributed health benefits such as combatting cellular damage, reducing inflammation and ‘bad’ cholesterol, helping to regulate blood sugar, assisting digestive issues and possibly even acting as natural pain-inhibitor.
In Ayurveda, chai is linked to healing digestive issues, and is recognised as tridoshic, meaning it is generally suitable for all constitutions.
The best part is, this beautiful, nourishing beverage is also delicious!
How to make home-made chai – Dr Shaun Matthew’s favourite at-home recipe
Chai comes in many varieties and while there’s always a place for shortcuts, many ancient cultures understood the benefits of ritual in food preparation. Making it from scratch may do far more than simply make it tastier than you ever knew it could be; It can be a meditative ritual, helping you learn to slow down, to practice patience and just be present with the steps of preparing your tea.
You can use Dr Matthews’ recipe as a starting point for home-made chai and have fun experimenting with different spices.
4 cups boiling water
3cm (1 ¾ inch) fresh ginger, sliced
10 cardamon pods, bruised using a mortar and pestle
1 cinnamon quill
Unprocessed sugar (rapadura, jaggary, palm or coconut sugar), according to taste
3-4 teaspoons (or tea bags) of black tea (or caffeine-free rooibos)
2 cups milk
- In a large saucepan, bring water to the boil and add your selected spices. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes to allow the spices to infuse through the water. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to brew. Add the tea bags or tea leaves.
- Bring the milk to the boil in a second saucepan and add to the tea and spice infusion. Gently simmer the mixture for a few more minutes, then remove from the heat and allow the ingredients to settle for another 5 minutes.
- The ratio of water to milk can be adjusted for individual taste and the moment. Many people like a ratio of two parts of water to one part of milk. The tea is also delicious without milk, which may suit people with more Kapha (ayurvedic constitution) in their body type, or those who are intolerant of dairy.
Reproduced with kind permission from Dr Shaun Matthews, from his book The Art of Balanced Living. The expertise of Dr Matthews’ 3 decades of Western medicine and Ayurvedic practice underpins this beautiful and easy-read, making the principles of improving one’s own health through ayurvedic lifestyle changes, accessible to anyone.
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Written by Nicole Small, The Yoga Institute