India in teacups- different methods and benefits of Indian chai

There are micronutrients like zinc, magnesium and fluoride in tea. The major benefits, though, come from L-theanine (reason behind the soothing and calming properties of tea), caffeine (helps keep alert) and catechins (chemical group with antioxidant properties)- the three chief bioactive compounds which are contributors to the overall taste of tea. These could affect health even though they are not essential nutrients.

Indian tea is famous all across the world for its quality and equally famous are some Indian chai recipes. It is the addition of things like milk, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, honey and ginger, amongst other things, which makes this tea unique. This is one of the main reasons why tea lovers all over the world crave to get a taste of the real deal. First, we will look at some Indian chai recipes.

Indian chai recipes (North)

Punjab-

The people here and in some neighbouring states prefer their black tea mostly from the famed Dooars region. They are fans of CTC tea with cleaner leaf and more grainy appearance. Common additives are a variety of sweeteners like sugar, khand (locally made sugar processed in traditional ways) and jaggery along with things like ginger, cardamom and tulsi (holy basil). Buffalo milk is a huge hit here as it gives the tea a much thicker and creamier appearance which the locals like.

Kashmir-

This is probably one of the few places where they have two iconic preparations of tea. ‘Kahwah,’ made from green tea, is one and ‘Noon (Salt) chai’ is the other. The latter is also known as ‘Gulabi (Pink) chai’ because of its extremely pinkish appearance. To prepare this inimitable green tea brew the correct way, one would need to add saffron apart from the common fragrant spices like clove, cardamom and cinnamon. Finally, a couple of dried nuts/ fruits are added to this. The list of these nuts is extensive and includes dates, apricots, almonds, walnuts, apples, cherries, raisins and pistachios amongst others. Sea salt is generally added to the ‘Noon Chai’ instead of sugar and people normally add almonds and pistachios to this. All these nuts help to keep the body warm in such cold climates.

Indian chai recipes (South)

Tamil Nadu-

This region produces some of the most aromatic teas with a host of different flavours. As the teas produced here are slightly harsh, it is the perfect cup of black tea to add milk to. Its strong taste naturally means that over the years people started adding various fragrances and spices to their tea. The only region, because of an advantageous altitude, which produces an exception to these harsher teas is the world famous Nilgiris with its unique and delightful flavors. It has been rumoured that none other than the Queen herself has appreciated some of these teas in the past.

Karnataka-

Another major tea producer in the south also known for its love of consuming tea. Expect to find similar additives to most of the places mentioned on this list. Cardamom, though, is generally the preferred choice of seasoning for tea here. Teas made with ginger, lemon and honey are also quite popular in this state and in some nearby areas as well.

Indian chai recipes (West)

Gujarat

Gujaratis are known to purchase some of the best quality black tea in India for their personal consumption. Any list of Indian chai recipes would be incomplete without mentioning the local way of preparing tea. The tea here is eternally boiling while other things like green cardamom and ginger are chopped up and ground before being added. Another popular home remedy for tea is called Ukado- ginger, mint and lemongrass are added to boiling milk and is a good concoction for feeling refreshed instantly. An interesting fact is that the ‘Rabari’ tribe holds monopoly on more or less every tea stall in Gujarat.

Maharashtra

Here the tea generally simmers on low to medium heat with the milk, water and tea leaves having already been added. An instant addition on completion is sugar. Different regions here add a number of spices to their tea but the common ones are the usual suspects like cinnamon, clove and cardamom. Pepper powder and ginger powder are also usually used. One common sight is seeing people drinking from their saucers as compared to sipping from cups or glasses.

Indian chai recipes (East)

Assam-

It is expected that the best black tea producing region of India would definitely have its own ways of preparing tea. Original tea lovers would argue that this quality of tea is best drunk with only milk and sugar/ honey to fully experience the briskness and malty notes. Spices can be added as per personal preferences.

West Bengal-

The people of this state, and in particular Kolkata, can be arguably called the biggest collection of tea loyalists, snobs and purists. Bengalis are also known for their love of Darjeeling tea- famous all over the world for its flavours and aroma and addition of spices would just spoil the originality of the tea. A tea lover in these parts will generally drink the same type of tea throughout his/her lifetime. That’s how fiercely tea is admired in Bengal.

Being a massive country, Indians have many more ways of preparing tea and this is by no means an exhaustive list of such recipes. Finally, let us have a look at some of the health benefits associated with drinking Indian chai.

Health benefits of Indian chai

Digestion:

Ginger (soothing effect on stomach), cardamom (nausea/ diarrhea prevention) and black pepper (triggers secretion of digestive enzymes in pancreas) all have properties which help aid digestion.

Anti-inflammatory:

Past research has shown that ginger and ibuprofen have quite a few common properties. Cinnamon bark essential oil and clove oil also have anti-inflammatory signs.

Antioxidants-

There are a great many number of antioxidants in tea called polyphenols. These are said to be more prevalent in tea as compared to even fruits and vegetables. These help the body to get rid of the free radicals that are responsible for cell damage.

Better immunity-

Both cardamom and ginger improve circulation and give a boost to the immune system in the body. The former is also said to benefit the heart, kidney and lungs while the latter helps with motion sickness as well.

Cardiovascular-

The tannins present in tea are known to dilate blood vessels. This helps to regulate blood pressure and heart rate. Spices like clove and cardamom lower the bad cholesterol level and increase the good cholesterol levels. This helps to reduce the plaque formation of the arterial blocks.

Tea, on its own, has the best of both worlds as far as taste buds and health are concerned. The addition of various spices and nuts not only gives a different taste, but also bolsters the health benefits of tea. We hope you try your hand at making tea with these sorts of additives and then letting us know of your experience in the comments section below.

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