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Know Your Chai From Your Chia

Coffee shops and restaurants use the term Chai Latte or Chai Tea Latte to indicate that the steamed milk of a normal latte is flavoured with a spiced tea concentrate instead of espresso.  The correct name for the blend of black tea and spices such as cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and star anise, is Masala Chai or Spiced Chai though.  Chai is the Hindi word for tea, so to call it Chai tea would be a tautology (using multiple words to effectively say the same thing) seeing that it literally means “tea tea”.  Be sure to try my recipe for Home-made Spiced Chai Latte.

Chia on the other hand, is familiar to most of us as a seed used for the novelty of the Chia Pet™ – clay animals with sprouted Chia seeds covering their bodies like fur.  Chia Pets have been popular since the early 1980s. The Chia Puppy was one of the first Chia Pets to be introduced (photo below).  The beauty of having a Chia Pet is that you don’t have to walk it or clean after it. All you need to do is to give it water!

Chia is a flowering member of the mint family and is native to Central and South America.  It is grown commercially for its seed which is rich in omega 3 fatty acids.  The little seed, which can be white, dark brown or black, also contains calcium, manganese, and phosphorus and it can be eaten whole or ground.

During ancient times, Aztecs cultivated chia as a food crop.  Known as the running food, its use as a high energy endurance food has been recorded as far back as the ancient Aztecs. It was said the Aztec warriors subsisted on the Chia seed during the conquests.  “Chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength.”

Reasons to eat chia:

  • It is is gluten free
  • It is super high in dietary fibre, making it great for digestion and healing digestion issues.
  • It contains 20% Omega 3, making it a super food for the brain and heart.
  • It has eight times more Omega 3 than salmon!
  • It boasts 20% complete protein with all 8 essential amino acids
  • It is high in antioxidants (even better than blueberries)
  • It contains five times more calcium than milk
  • It contains seven times more vitamin C than oranges
  • It contains three times more iron than spinach
  • It contains twice the potassium content of banana
  • It is excellent food for healthy skin, hair and nails
  • It has a positive impact balancing blood glucose levels (awesome for diabetics)

The seeds are tasteless so they won’t affect the flavour profile of your food, which makes them easy to integrate into your meals.   Here are some great ways to enjoy chia seeds:

  • They can be eaten raw. They have a nice “nutty” flavor.
  • They can be soaked in fruit juice.
  • They’re perfect in porridges and puddings.
  • You can also sprinkle them on top of cereal, yogurt, vegetables or rice dishes.
  • Because of their ability to absorb both water and fat, they can be used to thicken sauces
  • They make an ideal addition to baked goods including breads, cakes and biscuits.
  • Chia seeds can also be sprouted and grown as a Micro-Green.
Ingredients for Masala Chai
Sprouting Chia Seeds/Micro-greens
Chia Pet Puppy