The very word “chai” soothes millions of drinkers who love to savor the taste of this beverage any time. Adding some aromatic spices makes it an assorted drink. Interesting part is until 19th century, tea was not consumed as it is done today nor was it as much popular and enjoyed as the way it done these days. Masala chai which is very popular among today’s drinkers has undergone huge difference in 5000 years of Indian civilization.
Evolution of Tea & Masala Chai
Earliest variety close to masala chai has its origin in Kadha which was greatly used for medicinal purposes. Kadha and today’s masala chai has huge contrast. In earlier times all edible spice or herb can be consumed after brewing . But, the beverage of those times had no tea leaves and milk. On the contrary, many legends have contributed in popularizing consumption of tea leaves in this country.
Story says that when a Buddhist monk was traveling to China, he chewed some wild leaves and revived his energy. Again, it is said that King Harshvardhana invented the method of brewing to be alert throughout his long court affairs.
When Milk became a lovely Companion to Tea
According to historians and tea experts, adding milk with tea developed at a much later stage by traders and travelers from Gujarat and Bengal as they had better accessibility to quality milk and spices. Spices complemented the flavor of milk and this became a popular breakfast drink. But, British popularized this beverage as go-to drink.
In 1900’s, when Indian Tea Association promoted the consumption of Indian tea with full enthusiasm, tea leaves became the priciest ingredient. So, vendors started using the left over leaves because they were much cheaper. Now, to make the beverage flavorful with those left over leaves, they started combining sugar, spices and milk to make the brew flavorful at a low cost. As a result, popularity of chai as well as masala chai gradually grew.
In 1960’s, CTC Tea production further helped to make tea and masala tea popular Indian market. As you all know, CTC is till date a staple variety of masala tea in this country.
British played a significant role in popularizing masala tea. In early 20th century, Indian Tea Association encouraged tea breaks in mines, mills, textiles and factory. They sold tea at a cheap rate and addictive quality of this beverage attracted more and more workers making it a popular beverage. Soon, Chaiwallahs and chai shops grew in number and the shops became a place for hangout. Thus, chai and masala chai gradually became famous.