Indian Masala Chai: A tea of surprises.

What is Masala Chai? – Mr Higgins explains…

Street traders have been part of human history since time immemorial.  I remember my mother telling meabout The Muffin man who would walk the streets on a Sunday afternoon with a tray of muffins on his head, ringing a bell to let all and sundry know about his muffins for sale. There is evidence to suggest coffee as beverage was first sold to the public by street vendors, before start of the Coffee Houses.

Masala Chai Tea

In India, tea is brewed and sold on street corners by the famous chaiwallahs, young men who ply their trade using kettles and pots, to offer an enticing brew of their Masala Chai to enthusiastic customers. Masala Chai is traditionally black India tea mixed with enticing stimulating aromatic spices and served in small earthenware cups.

This all became possible with the expanding use of smaller grades of tea. Not long after the second world war the CTC process of manufacturing tea dramatically increased production in India and Africa. The letters stand for Cut, Tear, Curl. The tea leaf is withered in the same way as in orthodox production, but instead of going through a lengthy process of rolling, the tea goes into a machine which cuts and chops the leaves into fine particles by means of blades that operate at different speeds, cutting, tearing and curling them. The result is an extreme oxidation of the leaves natural ingredients, creating a very strong tea that infuses quickly. A process particularly suitable for creating tea bag teas. CTC increased tea production by leaps and bounds and it had the effect of making tea more affordable to many more people around the world.

As the popularity of Chai spread from India many interesting variations emerged. For example, in Hong Kong CTC grade was used to create Simat Naaicha, which translated means “Pantyhose milk tea”. The professional tea masters using pantyhose, silk stockings, tights, packed with tea, infusing them in their kettles and serving with evaporated milk.  The stockings or tights reputedly giving the tea an extra smoothness.

Masala Chai

Our Masala Chai is black India tea mixed with fiery ginger, citrus peels, all spice whole cardamon, spicy cloves, star anise and earthy nutmeg. A highly aromatic, soothingly warm and deliciously spicy Masala Chai.  (I thoroughly enjoy it, though secretly being a bit of a traditional as far as tea is concerned). So, perhaps, like me, you will find Masala Chai “A teas of surprises?”  (I haven’t tried it using the tights though, maybe one day!)

I send my very best wishes in these challenging times, and thank you for all your orders.

Tony Higgins