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Spice up your life, with chai

31/05/2011

Chai is a personal favourite beverage and is best enjoyed in cooler weather.  As the first day of Winter is just tomorrow, I have chai on my mind and by the time you have read this blog I hope you will too.

left – black tea chai, right – herbal chai

There’s something really comforting about having a ‘sit down and a nice cup of tea’.  Chai takes this experience up a notch – we spice the tea up.  This style of tea is wonderfully fragrant and warms you from within.

The word ‘chai’ is the name given to tea in India and refers to the way in which Indians often take their tea.  Most chai teas use a combination of spices that are often found in Indian cooking and herbal medicine such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom and black pepper, but the ingredients vary from chai to chai.  It can include black tea, green tea or simply the spices alone as an herbal tea.  Likewise, milk is optional, and even then you can choose from cow (not for the vegans or dairy-free amongst us), soy, rice or nut milks.  Your chai can be sweetened with honey or sugar.

As for the wellness aspect of tea in general, the Japanese Buddhist priest, Myoe (1173-1232), is said to have inscribed this into his teakettle:

Tea has the blessing of all the deities
Tea promotes filial piety
Tea drives away all evil spirits
Tea banishes drowsiness
Tea keeps the five internal organs in harmony
Tea wards off disease
Tea strengthens friendship
Tea disciplines body and mind
Tea destroys the passions
Tea grants a peaceful death

So, given that the weather is cooler now it is time to ditch your iced tea (although strictly speaking in Traditional Chinese Medicine chilled liquids are frowned upon all year round anyway) and opt for a health-restoring steamy cup  of delicious chai, as this quote describes:

“Tea should be drunk when hot.  Cold tea will aid the accumulation of phlegm.  It is better to drink less of it, rather than more.  Better yet!  Don’t drink it at all.” Chia Ming, Yin-shih hsu-chih, fourteenth century

Bare in mind the milkier and sweeter your chai is, the more likely it is to also create phlegm, although, the warming spices should aid digestion to some degree. So, as usual, moderation is the key.

You can make your own chai with a recipe like this one or purchase some loose leaf chai from a shop that supplies good quality teas, don’t bother with the supermarket ones.

Now, would you like a cup of chai?  Go on…

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

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