Masala Chai

I am, on the whole, a profound devotee of stimulant drinks, without which I cannot imagine actually being creative and productive. My preferred drink among these is coffee, preferably dark roasted until it is a bit smoky, brewed very strong, and served with whole milk or even half and half, with some sugar and perhaps some cinnamon. But I also like variety and masala chai is an especially interesting option given the alchemical focus of this site, given the number of spices which are often added to it.

In order for the following discussion to make much sense to you, you need to know your Ayurvedic dosha or constitution. Ayurvedic dosha is based on a five element system (earth, air, water, fire, and ether). Vata combines air and ether and is cold and dry. Pitta combines fire and water and is hot and wet. Kapha combines earth and water and is cold and wet.

There are numerous online quizzes available which purport to analyze your dosha. This one seems a bit more subtle than some of the others:, though the one at this site gave slightly different results, so you may want to try multiple sites and consider the results critically.

In general, all of the spices typically added, to masala chai are regarded warming and thus recommended for those with a kapha or vata dosha, with some caution suggested for those with a fiery pitta dosha. This is true of the black tea which forms the base, and especially of ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom which are the main ingredients, but it is also true of the black pepper and cloves which are often added and the tumeric and fenugreek which I recommend in the recipe below. Black tea also produces vata. As for other medicinal effects, cinnamon has been reported to lower blood sugar and has antimicrobial properties, ginger helps resolve nausea and indigestion, and cardamom is a very effective stimulant and regulates vata. Cloves are also an antimicrobial and have strong analgesic properties. They may also help clear the lungs. Black pepper stimulates the appetite and improves absorption of turmeric. Turmeric has antitumor properties, helps detoxify the liver, and promotes healthy cholesterol level. Fenugreek may be an aphrodisiac.

Basic Recipe

1 cup strong black tea. (I generally use Gulabi Bahrooti, a strong, fruity tea from Assam).

Three tablespoons each of ground cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom.

One tablespoon each of black pepper, turmeric, anise, cloves, and fenugreek.

One teaspoon ground nutmeg.

Mix in a bowl and store in an airtight container.

The tea is best prepared by simmering in whole milk and you are likely to prefer some sweetening. Brown sugar or honey taste best. Stevia works and you can even add stevia leaves (1/4 cup) to the mix if you prefer.


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