I want to chat about chai, one of my favorite topics.
I looked up the health benefits of chai and there are a ton of articles out there. So you don't need me to tell you how good chai is for you. Google it and read for yourself. What I wanted to write about instead is the magic of chai!
When I was in my first teacher training the boxed Oregon Chai had just come out, or at least it had just come to my attention, and it seemed like a magical drink. I couldn't get enough of it. I had recently given up coffee as I was pregnant with my first child and this sweet milky concoction, was an excellent replacement. It was difficult to find in coffee shops and restaurants, so I bought it in the health food stores whenever I saw it.
Later on in during the training my teacher had passed around a canister and asked us to look at the ingredients, smell them, and then go home and recreate it. It was wonderfully mysterious! We were to let our senses lead us in this task. The mixture, as you probably guessed, was chai spices. We all trotted off home and a week or so later presented her with baggies full of spices, all looking and smelling completely different from each other. It became a big deal for us- we waited anxiously for our “chai grade," which by the way, never came. (I have since prepared chai for my teacher, and she always drinks it, so I guess in some way, I passed!)
One of my favorite memories of Ganeshpuri India was getting up very early to go to the temples for the morning aarti. After, the lingering smell of temple rituals heavy in the air, we would sit on plastic chairs at the chai stand to sip a metal cupful of steaming hot, ridiculously sweet chai that was lightened by milk fresh from the cow, transported to the chai wallah in a plastic bag. All for 25 rupees. I would have paid the fee just to watch the man make the chai! It was quite a beautiful procedure.
I recall a few years ago having house guests and serving chai for breakfast. When someone commented on enjoying the brew my husband puffed up his chest and said with pride "We have this EVERY morning". It was nice to have him inspired enough to brag about our indulgence with something as easy to make as chai. Yes, easy now, after many years of experimentation. Since the time my teacher passed around that canister I have been playing around with chai spices to come up with a suitable blend. I have tried different ways of preparing it for large gathering, making a concentrate for easier travel, experimenting with dairy free versions, different blends of black tea, different ways of sweetening it, on and on. One thing that stays constant is people always love it. It makes sense as it satisfies so many of the senses; the smell is heavenly, the taste (usually) mouth watering, the caramel color appealing, particularly when you first pour the milk into the dark brew and watch the pillows of white milk clouds puff out. Those of you who come to classes will sometimes hear me exclaim that the chai was particularly good, and abundant, that morning, which is ultimately why the class that day was inspiring. Really, it's not me, it's the chai.
If you don't want to sift through the dozens of articles that extol the virtue of chai, here is a nice short one that goes through the main ingredients and what their benefits are by Dr. Isaac Eliaz: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-5825/Why-Everyone-Should-Drink-Chai-Tea.html.
If you want to sample my years of experiments, we are selling small jars of chai spices mixed with special black tea at the studio. Just add water, milk and sweetener if you want. It is drastically on sale so you might want to pick up a jar for yourself and one for whomever is cooking thanksgiving dinner for you. Jars of just chai spice are soon to come!