Chai Me Up, Chai Me Down

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Chai is my favorite tea blend, and I generally prefer an herbal variety to its black-tea cousin.

The traditional spices in a well-made cup—cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, star anise, cloves and peppercorns—explode in your mouth, yet provide the ultimate in comfort.

One of my favorite chai recipes is a simple Cardamom Tea, as presented in Diana Rosen’s superb book Chai: The Spice Tea of India. Rosen’s recipes go beyond the teacup, with her unique takes on chai scones, cookies and cakes.

“Indians focus on the health properties of chai,” says Dana Jacobi, author of The Essential Best Foods Cookbook: 225 Irresistible Recipes Featuring the Healthiest and Most Delicious Foods and a contributor to the New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life, published by the American Institute for Cancer Research.

“Each spice has its benefits, from easing digestion to stimulating the body’s circulation with a warming effect,” she says. “I focus more on how chai tastes, finding it a great way to consume quantities of tea for its antioxidant benefits.”

Jacobi, in fact, has collected more than 20 different chai brands and flavors.

“In some, the bite of clove dominates over the mellow flavor of cinnamon and dry taste of cardamom,” she says. “In others, the heat from ginger, black pepper or both takes over. Some chai teas include fennel or anise seed because they add a sweet flavor. For added variety, some also include vanilla, chocolate or orange zest.”

If you’re looking for a great chai blend, check out Rishi Tea Masala Chai, available at OrganicAuthority’s Online Store, Amazon, and natural and organic food stores. It’s USDA Organic-, Fair Trade- and kosher-certified.

Jacobi prefers to brew her own chai instead of using preblended tea bags. Tune in tomorrow for her delicious recipe for Iced Almond Chai—a divine summer treat!

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