Friday, October 10, 2008

.a cup of chai.

If I had to choose my favorite "spiced" drink, followed by eggnog, my favorite would have to be chai. Surprisingly, there are many people that don't really know what chai is. I was introduced to the beverage, with origins that stem from India, by a co-worker while standing in line at a Starbucks. I remember the warmth of this slightly sweet, milky drink, laced with a wonderful collaboration of cinnamon, black pepper, ginger, cloves, anise star, and cardamom.

What we all refer to as "chai tea" here in the States, is actually called "masala chai" in India. The word chai, in most countries beside the Western world, actually means "tea." The word masala is an Indian term used when several spices are mixed together for a dish or drink. To prepare this drink, black tea and spices are added to warm milk and usually sweetened with sugar or honey. Here lately, while fighting the allergies and congestion in my lungs, due to the change of season, I've been drinking the tea without milk. The flavors of all the spices are more intense, especially the black pepper.

The wonderful thing about chai is that there are different combinations of spices that can be used to make up this drink. Although there are the usual ingredients, as shown above, some brands, such as Zhena's Gypsy Tea's "Fireside Chai" uses rooibos, ginger, cloves, orange, and nutmeg. Another spin on the drink, which I have recently been introduced to, is called the "dirty chai." Prepared the same way as the original drink, only with the added shot (or two) of espresso. While it is served at Starbucks, you don't have to stand in line there to enjoy a cup of Tazo's Organic Chai. Tazo, as well as several other brands, are readily available in the tea & coffee aisle of your local grocery store. So make up a cup and enjoy the invigorating taste of chai. A good tea book to add to your library: The New Tea Book, by Sara Perry.

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