Many varieties of tea have their origin in India, but few are as closely associated with India and Indian culture as chai. It’s everywhere in India. There are chaiwalas (street vendors who only sell chai) on every street corner. If you visit someone’s home in India, they will serve you chai. As part of our mission to bring our culture as well as our food to you, Indian restaurants in Nashua are the best places to try chai if you’ve never had it before.
But what is chai, exactly? Let our team at India Palace explain this beverage and cultural institution to you.
It’s not a type of tea. It is tea.
First things first, let’s define our terms. Although we often call it “chai tea” in America, that’s actually redundant. In Hindi, chai just means “tea.” No one will judge you if you ask for a chai tea, but you are asking for a “tea tea.” While it’s a specialty drink here, in India, it’s just the way they prepare tea.
Today, India is one of the largest tea producers in the world, as well as one of the largest consumers of tea. Black tea is the most common, and in India, the top two varieties of black tea are Assam and Darjeeling. Both are named after the regions where they are grown and processed.
What makes Indian chai special?
The drink that we call chai may just be the way they prepare tea in India, but there’s a reason it has become so popular all over the world. There are four ingredients that make Indian chai special:
- The tea: It is tea, after all. Indian chai is almost always black tea, usually Assam. The strong, full-bodied flavor and aroma are the basis of good chai.
- The milk: Chai is a milky beverage, and traditionally you use whole milk. Many coffee shops will offer alternative milk substitutes in their chai, but whole milk is the only thing to use if you want the real deal.
- The spices: The British can make milky tea, it’s the spices that make it chai. Cardamom is the most common spice you’ll find in chai, usually along with a combination of cinnamon, singer, star anise, and cloves.
- The sweetener: Chai is always described as spicy and sweet. The most common sweetener is plain white sugar or unrefined cane sugar, though that can be hard to find in the United States.
Taste the Flavors of India at Nashua Restaurants
National Chai Day is September 21st, and we can’t think of a better day to head to Indian restaurants in Nashua. Come to India Palace to enjoy the flavors of India with both our food and our beverages!