Introducing Authentic Chai to Kids
Chai Party for Kids: How to Introduce Your Little One to Tea Time
By Leena Saini
Chai. What can I say? It’s one of the best drinks ever created. Just the sweet spicy aroma of chai being prepared in the kitchen puts me in a happy, relaxed mood.
As a mother of two little girls under the age of five, I need (double, triple need) my chai breaks throughout the day, particularly in the late afternoon when I’m too tired to even lift up a Lego block. My nearly four-year-old, who has entered the “let’s play princess tea party” phase of her life is always asking whether she can have her own cup of chai. She, like many kids, also likes to feel “grown-up” and copy what mommy and daddy are doing.
One day I decided to give her a sip of my chai. Her reaction? Not favorable! It was such a sad reaction that it got me thinking, what tea could I serve her that would be pleasing to her little taste buds. Could I get her to enjoy the flavors of chai? And furthermore, should she even be drinking real tea in the first place?
Most experts and parents agree, it’s probably not advisable to give your little one a full-strength, caffeinated tea of any kind. For obvious reasons, caffeine can lead to hyperactivity and a case of the jitters. But parents around the world routinely give their children all sorts of teas, whether it is a weakened version of what they are drinking, or other hot, steeped beverages.
In Turkey, for example, children often drink light black tea with lemon and sugar. It’s often used to treat a mild cough or congestion. Japanese children are often served mugicha or barley tea because it has no caffeine and is a warming liquid. Many parents around the world believe there are great health benefits to drinking a non-caffeinated tea.
For us Southeast Asians, it’s all about chai. Drinking small doses of it can be especially helpful when your little one is under the weather. The masala used in chai is made from a powerful blend of spices that can help sooth a sore throat, relieve nose and chest congestion, and even reduce inflammation. Clove and cinnamon, part of the spice blend, are known for their anti-bacterial properties and analgesic properties, while cardamom, another spice, has been shown to support the immune system.
How to get your little one to try some chai? Easy! Start with what is familiar to them, such as warm glass of milk. Instead of serving it plain, add some chai masala. You can start with a pinch of prepared masala, or start by using one spice at a time. Most of us make chai masala using a blend of ground dried ginger, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and in some parts of India, black pepper. If your little one winces at the full-strength masala, try a pinch of ground cardamom or cinnamon at first, then add spices as you go along.
Using “baby-friendly” or “kid-friendly” (mild spices) is a nice, gentle way to introduce new chai flavors to young taste buds. After they’ve grown accustom to spiced milk, try adding very weak tea (like a previously steeped tea bag or spent loose leaves) if they are curious. This way you are adding some tea flavor without all the caffeine.
It doesn’t end with chai though. There are lots of great “teas” for children. Each one can be customized with different flavors and/or spices. Try adding chai spice to any of these great teas for children:
Wonderfully soothing from tummy to toes! Ginger tea aids in digestion, eases congestion, and can help a sore throat. To prepare: add a few thin slices of ginger to hot water. Let steep and cool. Serve with honey (only for babies over the age of one).
Such a fun and happy way to introduce your kids to the art of tea drinking. Familiar, gentle flavors with a touch of sweetness, fruit teas are ideal for tiny taste buds. Fruit teas are available in everything from apple to orange blossom to raspberry to passion fruit flavors. A little chai spice really compliments the fruitiness of these teas.
This South African bush tea is caffeine free and naturally sweet, something that will be sure to please your little tea drinker. Rooibos is also known to provide some essential minerals for kids and can also help with tummy troubles. Best of all? It comes in tons of yummy flavors, such as chocolate, strawberry/vanilla and mango!
And don’t forget the snacks! One cannot have a proper “tea time” without them. My favorite “tea time” snacks as a child were biscuits. Digestives, rusk biscuits or my daughter’s favorite, elaichi nan khatai biscuits, all make for yummy accompaniments. Tea sandwiches are also lovely. Take white bread, remove the crusts, and spread with coriander/mint chutney. Add thinly-sliced cucumbers and a bit of cream cheese if desired. Cut into cute triangles and serve alongside tea.
Have fun! A tea party with your little one will provide lots of memories and health benefits for years to come.
Easy Elaichi Nan Khatai Biscuits
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup white sugar
¼ teaspoon ground elaichi (cardamom) or more to your liking
1 pinch baking powder
1 pinch salt
½ cup melted ghee (cooled slightly)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Mix together flour, sugar, elaichi, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add enough melted ghee to form a soft, pliable dough. You may not need all of the ghee.
- Form 12 equal-size balls. Place balls on cookie sheet and flatten each slightly.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes. Do not let cookies brown. Once baked, cool on a wire-rack.
**This post is for informational purposes only, please consult with your child’s physician before introducing any new foods to his or her diet.
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