Chai Chai Chai

Indian Railways Chai Cups.

I'm sure you have recently read in the news the 'shocking' discovery that hot drinks from coffee chains like Starbucks contain a ridiculous amount of sugar. Especially the flavoured ones, which can have up to 25 teaspoons in one drink. That is a lot. Have you tasted one though? Surely you only have to taste them to realise that these drinks are a treat to have once in a while and not to be consumed every day or even more than once a week. Anyway, the report by Action on Sugar is calling for these coffee chains to reduce the amount of added sugar in their drinks. Starbucks has now planned to cut added sugar by 25 percent by 2020.

The chai latte was one of the hot drinks to be named and shamed. A drink I had quite often when I lived in Melbourne and worked in a little neighbourhood cafe. This drink, however, was made from actual spices rather than syrup and, therefore, much less sweet and sickly than the ones I have since tried back in the UK. Oh and they were usually about a 3rd of the size.

Anyway, on my return leg home from Melbourne, I spent around 6 weeks in India. It was here I became a little obsessed with their masala chai. A very sweet tea drink flavoured with spices served absolutely everywhere. Similar flavours to my chai lattes in Melbourne but made with water as well as milk and probably a lot more sugar. This little drink is a life saver on those long train journeys and the chai wallahs come up and down the trains with great regularity shouting 'Chai chai chai coffee chai'. 

Everyone has a different recipe, slightly more or less spice, some are a bit sweeter than others or made with different tea leaves. The spice recipe I am told is usually equal amounts of dry or powdered ginger, green cardamom and cinnamon with black pepper in a lesser amount depending on how spicy you like it. There is no need to roast the spices, just grind everything together until it is as fine as you can get it. To make the tea itself just boil a heaped tsp of the mix in one cup of hot water. Add 1 tsp of the tea leaves of your choice, more if you like your tea stronger. Then add a cup of milk and sugar to taste. Simmer for two minutes, leave for a further two minutes, strain and drink.

I used to drink masala chai everyday. Maybe it was a little excessive having such a sugary drink so often but the size of the drinks (always served in tiny cups) and having such a good diet otherwise (lots of vegetables and rice) I guess it wasn't so bad after all. Maybe it's not the amount of sugar in these drinks that is the problem but the volume consumed in one sitting. A venti drink in Starbucks in 20 fluid ounces which is over half a litre. Who needs half a litre of sugary coffee in one go? And some people are drinking this everyday on their way to work! Crazy. I do think this report will make people think twice before ordering these huge sugary drinks in the future so that must be a good thing but for me it's just confirmed something I already know. I'll stick to my tiny masala chai, thanks.

Sweet Masala Chai