A Few Fall Favorites That Are Spicy, Not Scary

A white teacup and saucer with a floral design. A trick-or-treating pumpkin is behind the cup and saucer, and some Snickers bars are next to it.

Fall, or Autumn is here, yippee! Fall happens to be one of my favorite times of the calendar year. It falls just behind Springtime (pun intended) as my second favorite season of the year. Fall foliage, autumn flowers, cooler, but not cold weather, are wonderful reprieves from the hot days of summer. Fall is a time I savor tea blends that wrap the senses in a warm, cozy blanket of aroma and flavor. While I drink all categories, blends, and flavors of tea throughout the year, I do enjoy pairing my tea with the season of the year. Listed below are a few of my favorite Fall time teas that I focus on drinking.

Masala Chai

A map of India that includes each region labeled with its characteristic style of chai. Chais included are Gur Gur Chai (Butter Tea), Kahwa, Noon Chai, Kangra Tea, Gur Wali Chai, Berinag Chai, Adrak Wali Chai, Masala Chai, Nathdwara Chai, Darjeeling Tea, Ronga Saah, Smoked Tea, Lebu Cha, Ukado, Parsi Choi, Cutting Chai, Irani Chai, Amruttulya Chai, Kashai, Kesar Chai, Kashai, Kalladka Tea, Inji Elakkai Chai, Karupatti Tea, Nilgiri Tea, Sulaimani Chai, and Meter Chai

The spicy concoction known as Masala Chai originated in India over 5,000 years ago.

Folklore states that a king developed a tea blend with Ayurvedic properties (whole body wellness using herbs) for purported healing. The founding recipe was made with black tea from the Assam region of India. What the world knows as chai tea is properly called “Masala Chai”. For in India, “chai” simply means tea and “masala” is defined as “spices”. Masala chai spice blends added to Assam tea include cardamom, cinnamon, and clove. Additional spices can be added, such as peppercorn, ginger, star anise, vanilla beans, chocolate nibs, and even fennel. The spicy chai drink is served blended with sweetener and milk and served hot. Masala chai recipes can vary from region to region and are customarily handed down to families from generation to generation.

Vinay Karagod, co-owner of https://lotatea.com with his wife Tara Karagod, took the time to share about growing up drinking masala chai and family memories while a child in Karnataka, India. Vinay stated that he started drinking tea as early as 6 years old. He remembers that his cup of chai always included milk and sugar. Tea time for his family was always a time to get together. His mother taught him how to make chai. Vinay emphasized that usually people would use Assam tea because they preferred to have a strong cup of tea. He explains that in India there is a difference between chai and masala chai. “Any type of tea can be a chai, but masala chai is made with tea masala.” He notes that masala spices include cardamom, cinnamon, and clove and ginger. “In India, many people buy tea masala to add to their Assam tea so that they can prepare it to taste” he explains.

Vinay's family members sitting in the living room of their home drinking tea

There are several blends of tea that are popular in Karnataka, India besides masala chai. Vinay stated that there is tea with just cardamom called “elaichi chai”, and tea with only ginger named “chunti chai”. Tea that does not include any spice is referred to as “cali chai”. According to Vinay, other regions of India would have their own popular variations of tea. Vinay notes that there are several differences in how people drink chai in the United States versus in India. Mainly, in India, chai is consumed in smaller quantities, rather than in big coffee mugs or travel size thermoses. In addition, the chai served in India is sweet, and would not be served with any sweets or cakes. Vinay however stated that chai could be served with a non-sweet tasting tea biscuit (cookie) that “could be dipped in the tea” or a salty or spicy snack called a “namkeen” might be served along with the tea.

Vinay and his wife Tara both create the wonderful blends of chai for Lotatea.com. They take artist license and blend non-authentic chai that would not be available in India, such as butterscotch chai and maple chai. In India, Vinay explains that people often add rose, vanilla, saffron, and turmeric to their chai and this is where the idea to create Turmeric chai came from. “In addition, some people like to add chai masala to Earl Grey tea, which is where we got the idea for Maharaja Grey.”

The husband and wife duo are dynamite in creating unique blends of chai tea. One of my favorite blends that they have created is named “Campfire Chai.” This blend of chai combines several teas that happen to be favorites of mine. Lapsang Souchong and Assam tea are paired together to create a tea that is both pleasantly malty and smokey at the same time. The dry tea leaves have a clove and cinnamon aroma, while the wet leaves have the added aroma of brown sugar. The tea liquor has a comforting smooth mouthfeel. The aroma of the spices that were added combine to create a blend of chai that reminds me of an apple fritter being cooked over a campfire! The smell of cinnamon, cloves, and brown sugar is extremely comforting. This is the tea to drink if you want to go camping but not in freezing Autumn weather. The aromas will transport you to a cozy and warm campfire in no time! 

Pumpkin Tea

I love anything pumpkin flavored. Fall time brings out an abundance of pumpkin flavored candy, bakery items, side dishes and soups. My favorite pumpkin flavored item is, of course, pumpkin tea. In this blend of pumpkin tea, with the merging of pumpkin, cinnamon and vanilla, is quintessential. The dry tea has a pleasant aroma of vanilla and cinnamon that is reminiscent of cinnamon rolls. The wet tea leaves have a slight citrus and honey note to the aroma. The cinnamon and vanilla aroma is a bit stronger in the wet leaf compared to the dry leaf. The wet leaf aroma also has hints of toast, squash, and caramel. The liquor has a creamy medium mouth feel, and the flavor profile is a gentle mix of pumpkin, cinnamon, toast, and vanilla with the sweetness of honey. All the best of autumn desserts and comfort foods in one cup of tea!

Rooibos

A tea made from little needle-like leaves that carries a bold, sweet, honey note flavor, Rooibos means “red bush” in Afrikaans. So far, the only location that the rooibos bush grows successfully, is in the southern tip of South Africa, in the Cederberg mountain area. Dutch settlers used Rooibos as a substitute tea for the more expensive tea that was shipped from Europe. Carl Thunberg, a Swedish botanist, in 1772 was the first to identify the plant.

It is a type of evergreen plant, with the leaves staying green all year long. The species Aspalathus linearis, has long, thin needle-like leaves and linear branches. The green, raw needle leaves are oxidized in the sun in long narrow rows called “sweat heaps” until the green leaves turn a reddish brown color. The leaves are then spread out to dry completely. The dried leaves are taken to a factory where they are sorted according to color, and size of. Rooibos takes flavors well and can be blended with herbs, as well as Camellia sinensis teas.

The Cinnamon Bun Rooibos blend is a treat for evenings when a caffeine-free drink is desired. The dry tea leaves have a delightful cinnamon and vanilla aroma that is carried over into the liquor. The wet tea leaves have a sweet hay and honey note combining with the cinnamon to bring forth a true cinnamon bun aroma. The hot tea has a crisp, spicy cinnamon flavor profile with a thick mouthfeel. Served as a cold tea, this tea has a toned down cinnamon flavor and the sweet honey notes are more pronounced. What says Fall Time better than cinnamon?

Happy fall and happy sipping, 

Leslie

About The Author

A photo of Leslie on the patio wearing a pink cardiganLeslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Level IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea.  No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!

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