Hanuman Chai is my chai, my mother’s chai, my Nanu’s (grandmother's) chai, her mother’s chai... the recipe is ancient; it is not only the chai of my family, but the chai of ancient wisdom. Over six thousand years ago, saints and yogis began to discover the value of preventative medicine. Their efforts were passed down over generations and that knowledge is the foundation of the Hanuman Chai Blends.
Over thousands of years, society grew up, and Chai grew with it. In India, spices are both a preventative medicine and a social glue: eaten and applied regularly, spices ease numerous ailments; brewed as karha and chai, spices bring families and friends together. The time we spend together gives us the social space to dream and achieve. I grew up in Old Delhi, the center of Chai culture. We lived in a home shared by my grandparents and their three sons' families, with a total of 9 kids! Every morning, the aroma of fresh-ground spices woke us up - the morning chai. Throughout the day, if one person was having chai, everyone else had to have some - Karha without caffeine for the kids, of course. We would sit around the dining table with friends and family, using chai time as a reason to take time, to tease, to laugh, to encourage each other - to be together.
It was not uncommon to have many cups of Chai or Karha in a day. First there would be the morning cup, which was brewed when the first person woke up, but there would rarely be enough left by the time half of us were awake - an excuse to brew another. Finally, as the stragglers awoke, and some guests came by, another batch would start ... and before we knew it, we would get through afternoon and even evening chai. How much? Sometimes 6, 7, 8, 9 cups!
On top of the social rounds of Chai Time, there were the spices used to take care of us. From our childhood sore throats to even the numbing available at the dentist's office before anesthesia was widely available- the remedy was spices. Ancient knowledge first gathered in the harsh Himalayan mountains and Thar Desert of India found itself in daily Ayurvedic practices that kept us all moving in tune with nature and the seasons. It was an education by practice. Cloves were anesthetics, turmeric helped reduce inflammation - we learned by doing. It was only as we grew older that we would methodologically study what generations before us had discovered.
After we moved to the United States, and over the last few decades, we have felt the time strains of work and busy schedules, driving the kids between activities, balancing fun with reality. It has become so easy to disconnect from our balance in nature, and our familial roots. Even technology makes it easier to spend time away from our loved ones, and the further we get from the people who encourage us, the harder it is to dream, to wonder, to create opportunities. Chai time is like gravity. It pulls people together. When we take the time to step back and enjoy each other’s company over something as simple as a cup of hot chai, we remember that we are in control of our lives and that the world is ours. Anything is possible.
Rachna is also an award-winning chef!
Her eyes light up when she laughs and says her training was in her mother's kitchen, and her expertise came from decades making food for her family- with kids who can taste the smallest imbalances in spices. She pauses and says, "picky eaters!"