January is National Hot Tea Month and all over the country we are experiencing some chilly weather, even here in Florida.  As everyone is much more appreciative of the benefits of drinking a nice hot cuppa, I can think of no better way to celebrate hot tea month than drinking the hottest of teas, Masala Chai.

Chai is the generic word for tea in much of the World. The British adapted the word as slang and ‘cha’ or ‘char’ became the meaning for a cup of tea.   So what is true Masala Chai?

This is a beverage from the Indian subcontinent made by brewing tea with a mixture of aromatic spices and herbs.  The traditional process of making chai involves actively boiling the tea leaves over sustained heat with spices.  Whilst there are many variations of preparation today (some not too good either!) there are four components which remain true to the original idea of chai tea.

Chai starts with black loose leaf tea

1.) Strong black tea, usually Assam but can be Ceylon. The loose leaf tea is strong so spices and sweetener do not overpower the flavor.

2.) Sweetener, usually white sugar, palm or coconut sugars. A large quantity is required to bring out the flavor of the spices. You can use honey or agave also. Condensed milk can be used which also adds sweetness.

3.) Milk, usually whole milk for richness but alternatives like Soy can be used. 1/4 to 1/2 parts are required.

4.) Spice, usually warm spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, peppercorn and cloves with cardamom being predominant flavor. Other possible additions are nutmeg, rose, liquorices root, almond and saffron.

At Local Tea Company we offer an outstanding Cochin Masala Chai which is authentic and gives a warm traditional flavor. It bears the name of a busy port which also has a long history in trading spices. We like to drink it without anything added and have been sampling our chai in the Tea Room at Selby Gardens, and probably one of these Saturdays at the Sarasota Farmer’s Market.  Go ahead and try the different options and see which one you like the best.  Then put your feet up, stay warm with a cup of Cochin Masala Chai and celebrate Hot Tea month!


the TeaLady


February 2009 certainly got off to a busy start in my tea world!

Last Thursday we had our first Tea Appreciation course at Selby Gardens as part of the Sarasota County Adult Learning Education Program.  From the second floor of the Payne Mansion with a wonderful view of Sarasota Bay, with the sun dazzling on the water and shining on the Ringling Bridge.

Does this sound amazing?  It was!
The picture perfect tea morning, bright and sunny but on the cool side for us wimps in Florida.
I had 16 lovely ladies attend. (Come on you tea loving guys, there must be some of you out there!)  During our 90 minutes together we tasted 6 different teas; 2 black, 2 green and 2 herbals.  We discussed origin, processing, preparation and health benefits of each tea. There was time for lots of questions and some lively discussion about brewing the perfect cuppa.
I must not forget to thank my excellent cha walla Michael, who served the tea in true airline stewardess fashion!  In Indian families ‘cha walla’  is used as a term of endearment to encourage a fellow member of the family to make the tea.   Also a term used in the film “Slumdog Millionaire”  for the hero Jamil Malik but not with the same endearment!

The ladies, as ladies are wont to do then proceeded to our Tasting Room to sample 3 more teas.

During the afternoon we had 3 more ladies attend and had an “unplugged version” of the same class. Very up close and personal but just as much fun. A brilliant start to the month.

Watch this space, we are planning more Tea Appreciation and other Tea associated classes in the coming months and it would be great to have you join us.


The Tea Lady