Chai is so prevalent in India and Sri Lanka that it could be called the ‘National drink’. It is very common to see the ‘tea wadis’ serving their chai to the walk-by street traffic. In North America we have the coffee carts; in the sub continent and Sri Lanka you have the ‘wadis’. Paint the following picture in your mind: the tea wadis cart has that ‘well used’ look (read - bashed, dented), quite often with a charcoal fire going keeping the water boiling so steam and smoke are rising, an old evaporated milk can full of sugar, another bashed and dented can with the masala chai spices, an eclectic collection of semi -clean mugs and glasses and a wizened chai expert deftly pouring back and forth from great heights, tea with spices and milk, combining the two ingredients. Once combined it is normal to add a fantastic amount of sugar for that real chai experience.
Chai is brewed with milk and a mixture of spices. Each recipe can be different depending upon the spices used. Indian spiced chai is often referred to as Masala Chai. The word ‘chai’ literally means tea (different languages use various forms of this word - for example Portuguese call it ‘cha’, Hindus call it chai, and in Chinese the sound of the symbol for tea sounds very much like cha.) and ‘masala’ is the word for the mixture of the various spices - hence Masala Chai.
Numerous medical journals laud the health benefits of green tea. Top quality high grown green teas – the type of base tea in this chai (and for that matter – black tea as well) contain a significant number of polyphenols which are antioxidants, elements known to inhibit various types of cancers. Additionally recent research is also seeing a positive correlation between the consumption of tea and the lower incidence of heart disease.