India, as a country, has diverse cultures and tastes, but one of the things that unite the whole nation is our love for tea or ‘chai’ as we call it. It is believed that Indians consume about 837,000 tons of chai annually, particularly favoring masala chai. It is one of the most popular of all the types of teas consumed in India and is consumed widely in several countries around the world. The popularity of Masala Chai is deserved as it is delicious with some amazing health benefits.
Unlike its popularity in other countries, masala chai is a staple in most Indian households, and there is a good reason for it. Let us trace the history and reasons for this obsession with masala chai among Indians.
History of Masala Chai in India:
Historically, tea was considered an herbal medicine rather than a refreshing beverage in India. Ayurvedic medicines still use chai spice blends known as ‘Karha’ as a solution for various ailments. The tea leaves required for making masala chai are derived from the Camellia sinensis plants which are predominantly in the Assam region of India. During the era of the 1800s, the East India Company was concerned regarding the increasing monopoly on tea by China.
Considering the enormous consumption of tea by the British, an alternative source for tea traders was the need of the hour. At that period, the British colonists discovered the Assamese tea plants. It was the ideal solution for the British to accelerate the growth of tea, and they began tea cultivations in India.
Over 90% of tea consumed in Great Britain was of Chinese origin in the year 1870, that was dropped to 10% by 1900 and was replaced by 50% of tea grown in British India and 33% by British Ceylon.
In the early 20th century, the Indian Tea Association started campaigns to encourage factories, mines, and textile mills to provide tea breaks to the workers. The association also supported the independent chai sellers in the emerging railway networks. Earlier the tea in India was consumed in English style with fewer amounts of milk and sugar added to it.
However, the independent vendors started adding spices and increased the quantity of milk and sugar. It was initially disapproved by the British-owned Indian Tea Association, as it reduced the requirement and purchase of tea leaves. After the Independence, there was no looking back for the Masala Chai to establish itself as the most loved beverage in the country.
Currently, there is no fixed recipe for Masala Chai and it varies in every household, depending on the personal taste of the consumer. The best thing about Masala Chai is its versatility as it can be prepared and consumed in various ways. Masala Chai usually has four main components– milk, sugar, cardamom, and ginger.
Why is Masala Chai Adored in India?
There are various reasons for Indians to love masala chai, such as,
- Several Health Benefits:
Masala chai blends the black tea with several spices like ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, etc., which consists of their respective health benefits. When used and consumed together as tea, it aids in boosting the immune system and strengthening the body against common infections.
Masala chai is particularly famous for its immunity-boosting properties during the monsoon and winter season as the spices included in it prevent people from catching a cold or getting seasonal diseases.
- Variation of Blends:
One of the best advantages of masala chai is that it offers unique blends and forms as Indians add their preferred combination of spices while making it. It means that masala chai will taste different in different households.
There are various methods of making it. Some people tend to consume the hot beverage without milk, while others add a generous quantity of milk, adding only minimal water. The milky variation is popular during winters as it brings extra warmth and taste to the experience.
- Combination of Spices and Tea:
Indians love the Masala Chai blend as it includes the two things that are preferred by Indian tastes– spices and tea. As the country is popular as the hub of spices, several traditional recipes include the intricate combinations of Masala Chai. Therefore, it is natural that Indians love and prefer masala chai over any other beverage.
- Cultural Attachment:
Lastly, Indians love masala chai because of its roots in Indian culture. As masala chai originated in India, it is the most strongly associated with the culture among all other types of teas around the world. Therefore, its several blends and forms reflect the various parts of India, making it a cultural heritage.
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