History of Masala Chai: Extraordinary Journey from Court of Great King Harshavardhana to Starbuck!
Origin of Masala Chai:
The history of masala chai dates back to 9000 years, for some historians and to 5000 years to the others. Legends say that the story of masala chai had its beginning in some Indian Royal court. The king created it as a vivifying ayurvedic drink.
Most probably, the king is said to be none other than King Harshavardhana of the Vardhana dynasty. The king used to drink the beverage to stay alert on his long courtly duties. There are even records that the king used to serve this drink to the guests to the court.
Formerly, the masala chai was infused with different aromatic spices found in the Indian Subcontinent. Served both hot and cold, this was considered as a remedy for humble ailments. It didn't contain any tea leaves back then, so was caffeine-free.
However there are several other stories related to the origin of the masala chai. It is considered by some that the beverage was discovered accidentally by a Buddhist monk while on his sojourn to China. He chewed some wild leaves after a long sleepless ritual, and he felt rejuvenated.
Even the drinking of the beverage is attributed to King Ashoka, who made it a culture of the court. Gradually, the culture got spread among the common masses.
A Dutch traveler who visited India in the early years of 1500 wrote that Indians ate the leaves as vegetables with garlic and oil. Further, he mentioned that the Indians boiled the leaves to make a brew.
In 1835, the tea plantations were established in Assam by the British. Gradually, the black tea that was produced there became an integral part of the local masala chai recipe. Thus, this was the pioneer appearance of the masala chai that's in the form today. However, it not popular with the masses as it was produced primarily for export and thus was expensive.
Milk was accepted as an addition to the drink only in the 1990s. The traders of Bengal and Gujarat added the superior quality of spices to the milk to enhance the existing quality and taste of the milk. This beverage was taken after breakfast.
The Indian Tea Association was busy then promoting the Indian tea consumption within India. However, the tea leaves were expensive. So the vendors used the already used tea leaves and blended them with milk, sugar, and spices to retain the quality, aroma, and taste. Thus emerged the modern-day masala chai.
In the 1960s when the mechanized mode of tea production brought the black tea within the reach of the common masses, the masala chai gained even more popularity. The CTC tea with its bold flavor gradually made it to the masala chai and the CTC Masala chai is a popular and staple beverage in many parts of India.
There are several other variants of the masala chai in India. The black tea leaves are replaced by the green leaves in Kashmir. Flavors of cardamom, pepper, cloves, and saffron are added to enhance the quality. In Bhopal, even a pinch of salt is added. In the Western parts of the nation, cloves and peppercorns are avoided in the masala chai.
Thanks to the global coffee establishments, like Starbucks, the Indian masala chai got to serve the global audience. The milk used in the Indian form of chai is usually the whole milk.
However, in the US, people prefer to have non-dairy options like almond milk, coconut milk, or Soya milk. Also, the global establishments use various flavoring syrups instead of the grounded and roasted spices to give the aromatic flavor to the masala chai.
Inspirations from Masala Chai:
There are several other beverages that are inspired by this masala chai namely, masala chai cocktails. Furthermore, the flavor of masala chai is induced in ice creams, dessert cakes, puddings, and cookies.
Thus there is growing popularity and acceptance of the Indian born masala chai. With its exceptional taste, aromatic flavors, and affordable price, the masala has emerged to become one of the most preferred beverages in India and the world.
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