I’m of Indian descent, so it’s only natural that I grew up drinking chai. Chai was a staple in my home — we had it with breakfast, we offered it to guests, we had it for dessert. It was our go-to soul-satisfying hot drink.
While reflecting back on my childhood, chai somehow always finds its way into my memories, my day dreams — and I can almost taste the delicious goodness, mmm!
Fast forward to today. I don’t drink dairy milk and I don’t consume refined sugar for reasons you all know. Heck, I rarely drink black tea due to its high acidity. All of these are key ingredients of a typical Indian chai.
Being the experimentalist that I am, I love thinking about childhood delicacies and finding ways to adapt those fine fantasies into healthy and equally (if not more) yummy creations, which typically means they're raw, vegan and gluten-free.
This raw chai recipe does just that. It’s healthy, it’s easy, and it’s decadent. It’s a sure crowd and belly pleaser, and here’s why:
Hemp: I use hemp seeds to prepare a protein and essential fatty acid (omega-3, -6) enriched superfood milk alternative. Although any nut or seed will do, I choose to use hemp seeds simply because they don’t require pre-soaking (like almonds, for example). This adds ease and accessibility to the recipe.
Cacao: I use raw cacao as my caffeine substitute because it's an antioxidant-rich and mineral-rich chocolate powder. This energetic superfood is also said to contain anandamide, known as the bliss chemical (ananda in Sanskrit = bliss). This delicious alternative to black tea is also the perfect cooling companion to the heating chai spices, when taken in small doses.
Is your mouth watering yet? Just wait, it gets better.
Dates: I use the sweetness of dates as my refined sugar substitute. Dates are dear to my heart (and gut). They’re incredibly sweet with simple sugars that are protected within a whole food exterior. The digestion-friendly fibers slow the entry of sugar into the bloodstream and add bulk to our lovely guts. Dates are also rich in antioxidants (flavonoids), vitamins (A, B6, K) and minerals (iron, potassium, calcium). Yet another superfood to add to this super-chai recipe!
Chai spices: Here’s where I stick to the original recipe. I use the following aromatic, warming spices: green cardamom pods, ginger, fennel, cloves and cinnamon — excellent for digestion and blood-sugar regulation. Some days I’ll throw vanilla, nutmeg, coriander and peppercorns into the mix, with the former being my most preferred sweet addition.
How is this recipe raw, you ask? It’s prepared with a mix of hot and cold water in a high-speed blender. The marriage of ingredients is so intense that it creates a beautiful, blissful, spicy aroma that spills into your space, leaving you with nothing more than a deep, relaxed smile.
Raw Chocolate-Chai Recipe
Ingredients (Makes 4 servings):
- 3 cardamom pods
- 2 cloves
- 2 fennel seeds
- ½-1 cinnamon stick (or powder)
- 1 medium-sized fresh piece of organic ginger (or powder)
- 2 dates, pits removed (add more as needed)
- 3 tbsp organic hemp seeds
- 2 tbsp raw cacao powder
- 3 cups filtered water
Optional: ½ tsp vanilla bean powder (I love this addition), pinch of nutmeg, 1-2 coriander seeds, 1-2 black peppercorns
Grind cardamom, cloves, fennel and cinnamon in a coffee grinder, food processor or with a mortar and pestle (my preferred method). Let the spices breathe while you prepare the seed milk.
Add 3 tbsp hemp seeds along with 2 cups of room temperature water to your blender and blend on high-speed for 1 minute or until combined.
To the blender add ginger, cacao, dates, vanilla, ground spices and 1 cup of filtered, boiled water. Blend on high-speed for another minute and serve.
Before you take your first sip, do yourself a favor and smell the healing goodness. This is a beautiful self-gift; the best part is that you can repeat it every day.
Enjoy the mind-body sensory experience!
Rhea Mehta, Ph.D., is a Canadian scientist (PhD, Molecular Toxicology from University of Toronto), social entrepreneur and community builder who has been working in the fields of science commercialization, health data privacy, and lifestyle medicine for over 10 years.
Committed to helping millions of people adopt a healthier and more joyful life, Rhea is the co-founder of Bowhead Health, a privacy-enabled health data capture and sharing platform, co-founder of Reset, a wellness-inspired Canadian adult summer camp and digital detox, and is the founder of Global Smoothie Day, an inclusive movement to inspire health awareness and accessible plant-based living.
Rhea recently entered the psychedelic medicine space to focus on developing transformative therapies for mental health disorders. In her spare time, Rhea practices and teaches meditation and kriya-kundalini yoga from the Himalayan Vedantic Tradition.