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Highlight: Chai

Ingredients: organic tulsi, organic red rooibos, organic cardamom, organic cinnamon, organic ginger, organic star anise, organic peppercorn, organic allspice

It started in an ashram

Before our Founder Lisa Govro ever even imagined starting a tea company, she learned how to make chai at an Ayurvedic cheffing apprenticeship. 

Surrounded by the fiery colors of Sedona Arizona, Lisa started every morning in the kitchen freshly-grinding spices and brewing a big pot of chai for students at 7 Centers Yoga. And she fell in love with the practice of brewing and caring for the community with food medicine. 

The Origins of Chai

These days, chai is an American coffee shop staple — but this spicy, sweet brew has been enjoyed for centuries.

Here’s what we know about the origins of our favorite spicy tea: this South Asian drink (that's Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka) is brewed sweet with strong black tea and milk — and you can add fiery spices (“masala” मसाला) from the kitchen.

Each region, city, and village has their own traditional ways of layering spice, milk-to-water ratio, and brewing. There is no ONE way to make it. It is as diverse and complex as its place of origin.⁠

Herbal remedies and spiced drinks have a long history in South Asian cultures, but the chai that we drink today has deep roots in imperialism. Back in the 1820’s, Britain's colonization of India and the Assamese tea leaf led to the modern Indian tea industry.

Learn more about India's tea industry in Partner Story: Assam Heritage Estate

Some say today’s South Asian adaptation — black tea sweetened with sugar and milk — evolved to help Indian families stretch out valuable black tea stocks, or that Indian drinkers added sugar and spice to balance the bitter tea leaves, while others debate that milk and traditional spice blends were added to keep farm workers sustained and caffeinated between shifts. ⁠

If you want to make South Asian chai at home, check out these awesome recipes: Authentic Pakistani Chai by Izzah and Masala Chai (Indian Spiced Chai) Recipe by Shivani.

PS) We don’t know who needs to hear this right now, but it’s "chai," not “chai tea.” Chai means tea in Hindi ("chaay" चाय). So when you say “chai tea,” you’re actually saying “tea tea.” And while ‘tea, tea’ sounds cute, it’s just chai. Or masala chai, if it’s spiced!⁠

Big Heart Tea Co.'s spiced rooibos Chai, pictured with pine and star anise

A masala spice mix that's real, real good for you

Big Heart Tea Co.’s Chai is a blend of naturally sweet herbs and fiery spices: cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, peppercorn, allspice, and star anise. We make it completely herbal and caffeine-free.

Why vanilla-y Rooibos has so many benefits

We chose red rooibos as a tea base for our Chai to add natural sweetness and color to the cup — but its health benefits are also off the chain, too. We call it a ‘free radical warrior’ because it has super-high levels of antioxidants.

This shrub, known in Western taxonomy as Aspalathus linearis, is endemic to South Africa. Endemic means it's from there, and only grows there. It's not related to the "tea" plant Camellia sinensis at all, with no caffeine, hardly any tannins and just a very different chemical profile (and therefore, flavor profile) overall. But both plants are full of antioxidants, and that's where the health benefits come in.

Rooibos in particular has more antioxidants than almost any other plant around. These compounds reduce inflammation, especially associated with sugar and diabetes. Rooibos is heart-healthy too, potentially by protecting blood pressure levels and lowering "bad" cholesterol.

Sure, we followed our tastebuds to craft this amazing brew  but we definitely followed the wisdom and science of Ayurvedic chai for this tea. 

Benefits of Tulsi

Tulsi — a naturally sweet, adaptogenic herb — is a cute flowering bush from the mint family. We like to say it’s the best friend you never knew you had, because it’s a powerful yet gentle adaptogen overflowing with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Commonly known as holy basil, tulsi is a sacred herb to our friends in India, commonly potted and placed near the entrance of homes. 

While tulsi has a long list of medicinal properties, it is most commonly celebrated for being an adaptogen. Adaptogens also balance the negative effects of metabolic stress (blood sugar, pressure, and lipid levels) and psychological stress (memory, cognitive function, and antidepressant). 

Benefits of Ginger

Grandma might've given you ginger for nausea, and she was spot on. It does more than soothe your tummy, though. If consumed regularly, some of its compounds accumulate in your digestive tract, keeping a healthier digestive environment stable in your body. 

Benefits of Cardamom

We love using lots and lots of this green, naturally sweet, menthol-flavored seed pod in our Chai seriously, there's really nothing like it. It's a favorite in savory dishes and desserts for these reasons, and South Asians have always known it's good for digestion.

Cardamom is super healthy too. It’s so packed with antioxidants and free radical-fighting properties, it's clinically proven to guard against chronic inflammation. It can also lower blood pressure, and can protect against all kinds of illness in pre-diabetic folks.

In fact, cardamom is kind of an all-around superhero, fighting cavities and harmful bacteria, and containing effects across the boardantispasmodic, gastroprotective, antibacterial, anti-food poisoning, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, heart-function improving... Just wow.

Benefits of Peppercorn

Black pepper is a serious healer. Piperine is the active ingredient that gets the most press, but peppercorn also contains disease-fighting agents that boost your immunity. We use Malabar black peppercorn from India's coast because it's known for being fruity and bold.

Benefits of Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a good friend, too. It contains the same antioxidant polyphenols tea leaves have, it's anti-inflammatory, and it's heart-healthy. Folks with diabetes might benefit from cinnamon, too, because it's been shown to lower insulin and cholesterol in animals. Cinnamon even shows promise to protect against brain damage and neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and  “upregulates” (boosts) positive hormones in the brain!

Benefits of Allspice

This little Jamaican ball of flavor, carrying hints of nutmeg, peppercorn, juniper, and more (hence its name "allspice") has lots of awesomeness compounds. Protecting against disease, we've got another wellness spice, here! 

Antioxidants are here to save the day again. It's even got loads of polyphenols, those free radical-busting antioxidants that make tea so special. Plus, it's antibacterial, which means you can bet it helps you fight bad breath and food poisoning.

Benefits of Star Anise

One last spicy antioxidant babe on our list! Just a little goes a long way, but Chai wouldn't be the same without her. Star anise is a powerful anti-viral agent, as well as an antimicrobial, antifungal, anthelmintic, insecticidal, secretolytic, antinociceptive, anti-inflammatory, gastroprotective agent, and more. There may even be ways that star anise increases the body's ability to use energy and nutrients. That remains to be seen, but we've got our ears open.

Brewing

Sweet. Spicy.

Fiery and Supportive.

We dedicate this Chai to the spirit of early mornings, spinning records, cuddling with books, and the art of chilling out. It's the perfect way to energize without caffeine, and to ease and protect your tummy while you do it.

Brewing hot:

    • Measure 5 g loose leaf tea (or 2 heaping tsp) per 10 oz water
    • Steep in 185°F for 1 minute
    • Strain and serve 

Brewing cold: 

Here are cold brew instructions for any of our teas! You’ll find a sweeter flavor via this method, with Chai.

And here are some Chai recipes for you:

       

       

Masala yourself ASAP.

But wait... do you make "Chai Lattes?"

Chai was not originally part of our line when the company was founded, but that all changed when coffee shops and cafes started requesting a less syrup-y, less sweet chai concentrate for their menus.

In 2014, we began to develop St. Louis’ very own, local chai concentrate with a little help from our friends in the coffee industry. The "Chails" (Chai Trials, lol) were a series of tasting events with The Mudhouse, Goshen Coffee, and Rise Coffeehouse, where we refined our recipe with input from customers and baristas.

The recipe that emerged is our city’s best-kept secret: an extra special, freshly-brewed Chai Concentrate for local St. Louis cafes only. Brewing chai is all about the process. Slowly layering in spice at a low and consistent temperature for hours. Constantly stirring and agitating the spice so that it releases maximum flavor, and then quickly steeping Assam black tea at the very end.

Chai on a cafe menu is often a safe place for customers: its sweetness is comforting and familiar. So we also stepped out of our comfort zone to add a little more sugar than we typically would. Even so, our chai is brewed with one fifth of the sugar most conventional concentrates on the market.

The majority of Big Heart Tea Co’s teas are blended with no more than 5 commonly-known ingredients. We do this because we want you to have an individual experience with each one of the herbs and spices, to really taste the nuance each ingredient adds and to feel the energy that they give.

But chai is classically blended with a variety of herbs and spices so we broke our own rule and went all out, using 8 certified organic herbs and spices to make our very own version of Chai.

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