Tea in a cup flatlay photography with Indian spices spilling out of a spice jar.
Food - Drink
The Medicinal Origins Of Chai (And Why It Didn't First Include Tea Leaves)
Masala chai, also known as "chai tea" in many countries outside of India, is a descendant of the first masala-spiked drinks that history knows of, which go back thousands of years.
Millenia ago in India, a principle of Ayurveda (Sanskrit for "the science of life") was that proper digestion led to good health. Several special drinks were invented to aid in this.
Indian emperors drank a heavily-spiced concoction to keep them refreshed, but these early incarnations of masala chai contained no tea (AKA chai) and were caffeine-free.
Each part of the masala spice blend was assigned a health property by the Ayurveda philosophy. Ginger and black peppercorns aided digestion, while cardamom boosted mood.
Much later, when Britain had India in a chokehold of colonial rule, they used the country's land to farm tea. British companies looked to profit from tea within India as well.
Companies offered scheduled "tea breaks" for workers at their factories. The public was resistant at first, as tea was extremely expensive and they had no historical love for it.
In a subtle rebellion, the Indian populace created the modern masala chai, their very own cheap and flavorful beverage of tea heavily bulked up with milk, spices, and sugar.
Making this beverage was far more affordable than drinking pure tea bought from the British. Masala chai is now enjoyed as a healthy and relaxing drink all over the world.