Vitae Educational Articles Page Link
Vitae Recipes

Winter Chai

A Tea to Ward off the Cold (and Flu)

As the cold winter sets in, it’s nice to have a little help staying warm. This tea will not only warm you up, but it will boost your immune system to help you fight off the winter cold and flu. Many of the ingredients boost your digestive system, which can become sluggish after the excess of the holidays. Good for both prevention and treatment, this tea tastes and smells delightful, and infuses your home with its enticing aromas.

Winter Chai Ingredients (2 Servings)
Note: many of these ingredients can be found in the bulk section of your local grocery store

  • Allspice, berries (whole), 6 berries
  • Black peppercorns, 8
  • Cardamom seed, crushed, 2 Tbsp
  • Cinnamon stick, crushed, 3 Note: ground cinnamon would become slimy in your tea
  • Cloves, whole, 6
  • Fennel seed, 1 Tbsp
  • Ginger, crystallized, 2 Tbsp
  • Nutmeg 1 nut, crushed

  • Water, 5 cups
  • Black tea, 2 bags
  • Honey, to taste
  • Milk or non-dairy alternative, to taste

Add all ingredients but the black tea, milk and honey in a saucepan on your stovetop. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered for 20 minutes.

Bring to a boil again, remove from heat and add black tea. Steep for 3-5 minutes. Strain into cup, add honey and milk to taste, and enjoy!

The tea ingredients can then be placed back into the saucepan with more water and simmered to fill your home with its incredible aroma.

The allspice, cardamom, clove, ginger, nutmeg, peppercorns, and nutmeg will warm you up and boost your immune system. The black tea is antiviral. The fennel, pepper, clove, and allspice are used traditionally as digestive aids.

Chai’s history is over 5000 years old...

Legend has it that chai was invented by a royal king in the ancient courts of India & Siam who protected the recipe as one of his treasures. However, its roots can be traced unmistakably to the Hindu natural healing system called “ayurveda” in which combinations of spices, herbs and sweeteners are used to cure bodily ailments. The original recipe was created out of the need for a remedy to combat minor discomforts for those without easy access to medical care. As such, chai became available to the general populace who drank the tea daily for its cleansing and regenerative qualities. In today’s world, chai is a wonderful remedy for our bustling and stressful lives.


In India, chai is prepared at home but is also available wherever people gather such as on trains, at bus stations and in marketplaces. In fact, chai is such an important part of India's social customs that they have their own baristas attending to the brew of the drink (and a bit of local gossip) called ‘Chai-wallahs’. While Doctor Susan was in India she came upon an accident on the road — a huge truck had crashed and was lying on its side across the meridian. Nobody was injured, so the driver, passengers and local passers-by were all seated on the ground behind the truck while a Chai-Wallah served them! Why not sit and have a nice cup of chai while waiting for a tow?

The actual components of chai vary from place to place. Here are the ingredients Doctor Susan chose to complement each other for this special blend, plus a little snippet of their colorful backgrounds to tickle your brain cells (in alphabetical order)...

Allspice (Pimento officinalis): Named Allspice due to its complex flavors of clove, cinnamon, juniper berry and black pepper, it was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus as he made his way to the New World in search of black pepper. This versatile berry is used in everything from pumpkin pie to pickled herring, and is used medicinally as a digestive aid and topically in a plaster for rheumatism.

Black pepper (Piper nigra): This isn’t just for cooking! Native to India, Piper in tea will clear up a foggy mind, stimulate digestion, and may bring down a fever. It has been used since antiquity and was a favorite of the ancient Egyptians, who used it in their mummification process - a fact evidenced by the black peppercorns found in the nostrils of Ramses II.

Black tea (Cammellia thea): The antioxidant and antiviral properties of black tea are renowned. According to legend, tea was discovered by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong in 2737 B.C. The Emperor was boiling water in the garden and a leaf from the camellia plant fell into the pot. Upon drinking the resulting infusion, he felt revived and refreshed and declared the brew to have medicinal powers. Thus black tea was the first tea! Black tea should be added to the mix after the initial steeping, or your tea will become bitter; thus we have provided it separately.

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum): This spice has wonderful warming and drying properties. These "grains of paradise" were long considered to be a medium for dialoguing with the divine. In India and Pakistan, cardamom seeds are still offered to the gods during religious services. Greek and Roman priests considered cardamom essential to the purification of meals offered to the gods. And, oh my lord, does it smell divine! Cardamom is primarily responsible for the amazing fragrance of Squirrel Hollow Chai.

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): Mentioned in Chinese medicinal texts 4000 years ago, this multitalented spice adds warmth to the digestive system, increases circulation, and is a mild stimulant. Cinnamon has been used for centuries for its many healing properties and was a favorite in medieval times. It has anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce arthritis pain and is said to help fight tooth decay and gum disease. It also has powerful anti-microbial properties that can kill bacteria (one of the reasons it was used hundreds of years ago to help preserve meat).

Clove (Eugenia caryophyllatum): Cloves are an ancient spice whose use dates back over 2000 years when they were used to “sweeten the breath” of those who had an audience with the Chinese Emperor. Cloves can help a toothache and are used to help heal digestive problems, headaches, and earaches. Cloves are also an anti-spasmodic; they can help relieve coughs and when applied topically, can help with muscle spasms. The eugenol oil is also said to help with styes, ulcers and skin sores.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): Indigenous to the Mediterranean region, fennel is now in gardens all over the world. In Medieval times, fennel was considered a sacred herb used to treat disease. Fennel was hung from the rafters to bring good luck, and put in keyholes to keep out ghosts and evil spirits. In American history, the Puritans thought of fennel as a "meeting seed." Meeting seeds were seeds of various herbs which parishioners chewed during church meetings to stay awake~! Its seeds, bulbs and leaves stimulate digestion, regulate the appetite, neutralize stomach acid, and taste darn good.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale): Originally from Southeastern Asia, ginger was used over 5000 years ago in Chinese medicine and has many health properties. The oils in ginger help to neutralize stomach acids and can relieve nausea, diarrhea and cramping. It can also aid in digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Ginger is so powerful in relieving nausea that it is used in treating both motion sickness and morning sickness. In history, Ginger was used extensively by the ancient Romans and was later traded in Europe by the Arabs who took the rhizomes on their travels and then planted them in other tropical places such as Zanzibar and Africa. Europeans loved it to flavor drinks but since a pound of ginger cost as much as an entire sheep, it was used sparingly.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The information herein is for educational (and entertainment) purposes only. The FDA has not reviewed Vitae Health Center's Winter Chai Recipe :-) We make no claims as to the medicinal properties of this magnificent tea!


Sources:

Gladstar, Rosemary, Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal: a guide to living with energy, health, and vitality. Storey Books, North Adams, MA, 2001

Griebe, Mrs. M., A Modern Herbal: The medicinal, culinary, cosmetic and economic properties, cultivation and folklore of herbs, grasses, fungi, shrubs and trees with all their modern scientific uses. Barnes and Noble, New York, NY, 1996 (originally published in 1931)

Hoffman, David, Modern Herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Healing Arts Press, Rochester, VT 2003

Tilgner, Sharol, Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth, Wise Acres Press, Creswell, OR, 1999

www.mytchai.com
www.indepthinfo.com/cloves/index.shtml
chinesefood.about.com/library/weekly/aa011400a.htm
www.theworldwidegourmet.com/spices/seeds/cardamom2.htm