“The Origins of Chai: Tracing the Roots of India’s Favorite Drink”
Chai is an integral part of Indian culture, but its origins and history are shrouded in mystery and mythology. Some believe that Chai was first brewed in the ancient Ayurvedic texts, while others trace its roots to the tea gardens of Assam.
In this part 1 of our series, we will explore the connection between Chai and Ayurveda, with insights from Ayurvedic scholar and practitioner Dr. Vasant Lad and Indian cultural historian Priya Chandra.
Ayurveda is a traditional Indian system of medicine that dates back over 5,000 years. Dr. Vasant Lad explains that “the spices used in Chai have long been used in Ayurvedic medicine for their healing properties. Ginger, for example, is a powerful anti-inflammatory and digestive aid, while cardamom is known for its ability to help balance the doshas.” The core ingredients of Chai, such as ginger and cardamom, were chosen for their medicinal properties and were believed to help with digestion, boost immunity, and relieve cold and flu symptoms.
The ancient Ayurvedic text, the Charaka Samhita, describes a medicinal drink called Kadha, made with various herbs and spices. Priya Chandra notes that “Chai has been an important part of Indian culture and Ayurveda for centuries. It is a drink that is deeply rooted in our traditions and is often served as a symbol of hospitality and warmth.” The original form of Chai was a simple mixture of hot water and a few herbs and spices, with the Kadha serving as its precursor.
Over time, as Chai evolved and became more complex, new ingredients were added, such as black tea, milk, and sugar. However, the core ingredients of Chai still remain rooted in Ayurveda.
In addition to its medicinal properties, Chai is also deeply rooted in Indian culture and is an important part of social and cultural traditions. As Priya Chandra notes, “Chai is often served as a symbol of hospitality and warmth.” In many households and communities, Chai is served to guests as a way to express hospitality and to create a sense of warmth and comfort.
Overall, the relationship between Chai and Ayurveda is a strong and enduring one, with Chai remaining an important part of Ayurvedic tradition and a beloved drink for millions of people around the world!