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Cheers to Chai!

Did you know the word chai literally translates to the English word tea? Traditional “chai” spices originate from India, in a blend known as Masala.

The warm, spicy sweetness of these freshly ground herbs and black tea boiling on the stove – aroma rising from the pot – is an ideal atmosphere for a cold winter morning! It’s not hard to imagine why variations of this blend are plastered over almost every tea and coffee shop window as soon as the autumn solstice arrives.


Masala chai was invented in the early 20th century by tea vendors across India, after the British pushed a campaign for citizens to purchase tea grown in Assam. In India at that time, tea was often used as an herbal medicine rather than a recreational drink.

When the British established tea plantationsin India and Ceylon, and stopped acquiring the majority of it from China, they encouraged the people of India to participate in consumption. The Indian Tea Association, owned by the British, insisted that factory and mine workers receive a tea break during the day.

Originally, this beverage was served in the British style, with low doses of milk and sugar. Indian tea vendors, called Chai Wallahs (male) or Chai Wallis (female) began to add a variety of spices and more water and milk to reduce the use of the expensive black tea.

In modern day India chai wallahs can be found on every street corner at any given time to provide, “…the piping hot, milky brew that fuels the country.”


Masala chai is really a category of tea, rather than a specific type. There is no determined recipe, just a combination of ingredients including  milk, sugar, ginger and cardamom. The ginger and cardamom base is referred to as karha. Strong black tea is traditionally added to Karha to make a masala chai, but isn’t necessary.

If made with black tea, it contains about ⅓ of the caffeine present in coffee. Assam is often used because it’s strong enough to hold its own against the milk, sugar, and spices.

In India, a particular type of Assam called mamri is often used, because it is inexpensive and easily accessible. (Mamri is processed into granules instead of whole leaves, which are still larger pieces than the “tea dust” that’s often used in tea bags.)

Another style, kashmiri chai, is made with gunpowder tea, also known as pearl tea, which is usually some sort of rolled green or oolong.


Other spices frequently used in masala chai blends are cinnamon, star anise, peppercorn, nutmeg or cloves. Warming herbs are popular additions, which act as stimulants and have drying properties.

This can help pacify feelings of lethargy and relieve cold hands and feet, both of which are symptoms of a body that is too moist, according to herbal medicine traditions. Such herbs can also be helpful for those who have trouble digesting. Perhaps a more timely and desired benefit to drinking this tea during the winter holidays when feasts are upon us!

Licorice root and rose can also be incorporated for a sweeter, calming variant. These herbs are naturally cooling and moistening for the body, making a nice balance between spices. Our Herbal Chai Spice blend, for example, includes juniper berry and licorice root.

Culture and Preparation

Water buffalo milk is traditionally used to make chai in India, but low-fat cow milk is common outside of the country. Sweetened condensed milk is also used to double as a sweetener and dairy additive.

Generally masala chai is made of 2 parts water and 1 part milk, combined with the spice blend and brought to a boil, then poured through a strainer into cups. The preparation method may vary depending on local customs. It’s not about how you get there, it’s about the final product!


Craving masala chai now? Here’s a recipe, using our own Masala Chai blend. We’ve already gathered most of the ingredients for you!

Recipe makes about 3 cups of tea.

Ingredients needed:

2 cups of water

1 cup of milk, or milk substitute

2 Tablespoons of cane sugar, or sugar substitute (optional, can sweeten to desired taste)

3 Tablespoons of Shen Zen Tea’s Masala Chai tea blend (can also use Pumpkin Spice Chai, Mate Chai, or Herbal Chai Spice!)


  • Combine ingredients in a pot on the stove.
  • Heat to a rolling boil.
  • Once boiling, turn down heat and allow to simmer for approximately 6 minutes uncovered for mild/average strength. 10 minutes for strong.
  • Strain through metal mesh strainer into desired mug(s) and enjoy!


Shen Zen Tea masala chai variations:

Masala Chai: Black tea, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, and cloves.

Pumpkin Spice Chai: Cinnamon, cardamom, oolong tea, vanilla beans, ginger, black tea, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and marigold.

Mate Chai: Yerba mate, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, coriander, chicory root, and black pepper.

Herbal Chai Spice: Cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, rooibos, ginger, allspice, black pepper, juniper berry, and licorice root.


Written by Bryanna Putman

Edited by Allegra Radcliffe



1.) Eplett, Layla. “Tea Tuesday: Meet The Chai Wallahs Of India.” NPR, NPR, 14 June 2016,
2.)  Rawat, Radhika. “Karha: the Heart of Chai.” Hanuman Chai, 19 Nov. 2011,
3.) Tilgner, Sharol. Herbal Medicine: from the Heart of the Earth. Wise Acres, 2009.


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2016 Updates

Hi Folks!


If you’re looking to keep updated with us, follow us on our Facebook page, where we post weekly regarding tea and upcoming events! You’re also welcome to message us there with any questions or thoughts 🙂 We’re also regulars on Instagram and we invite you fun Tea Snobs to tag your drinks with #shenzentea. 😀

This Summer, you can find us at the following markets:

  • Tuesday: Crossroards Farmer’s Market in Bellevue
  • Wednesday: Kirkland, Wallingford, Pike Place Evening Market
  • Thursday: Queen Anne, South Lake Union (Amazon). We will be returning to Broadway in Tacoma and Snohomish next year!
  • Saturday: Redmond, Issaquah, Edmonds, South Lake Union, Shoreline. We will be returning to Gig Harbor next year!
  • Sunday: Ballard, Fremont, Everett, Lake Forest Park, Mercer Island
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Summer Market Schedule

Curious what markets we’re at this Summer?

1912029_839831186096595_8625090830941646626_nHere’s our schedule:









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Seattle Magazine: Shen Zen Tea Syrups are a Summer Must

We are so excited to be featured in Seattle Magazine’s August issue this summer! Very thankful for all you tea snobs out there!

11713930_10155792138245048_8165157544194795373_oThis is our first season having our famous syrups bottled and ready to take home. Pour a shot of Vanilla Mint Cola, African Ginger Ale, or our lovely Hibiscus Temple into sparkling water, hot water, or even cocktails for a refreshing, healthy drink!


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The Shen Zen Tea Store: Olympia, WA

Shop signsAs many of you may know, we have opened a storefront inside the Capital Mall, Olympia! It was a busy Winter getting everything prepared and remodeling the space. We’ve got your favorite tins, drinks to-go, syrups, and bulk tea available for you at the space! Stop by if you’re in the area and “Like” our tea shop on Facebook!

And of course, you can find us at your local Farmer’s Markets here in Seattle!

1501799_744400295639685_4275446145473119075_n IMG_4085 IMG_4086

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It’s May! Here we come, Farmer’s Markets!


Farmer’s Markets are starting up again! We’re excited to bring our Kombucha (along with home kits), bath salts and syrups to the markets this year. This weekend, we will be in the following markets and events:

Redmond Saturday Market (9a-3p)
Issaquah Saturday Market (9a-2p)
Edmonds Garden Market (9a-2p)
Taco Libre in the International District (5p-11p)

Fremont Sunday Market/Taco Libre (11a-7p)
Lake Forest Park Farmer’s Market – opening Mother’s Day (10a-3p)


Then on Wednesday, we will be in the
Wallingford Farmers Market (3:30p-7p)
Tumwater Farmers Market (11a-2p)

And Thursday in the Tacoma Broadway Farmers Market (10a-3p)

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Redmond Town Center Winter Market!!

RTCWinterMarketHave you heard about the Winter Market at the Redmond Town Center? It’s going to be every Saturday and Sunday starting Nov. 1st until the weekend before Xmas from 10am-6pm where Border’s once was. Shen Zen Tea will be there along with many great vendors from the farmers market you thought you wouldn’t see again until next summer! And, did I mention that it’s going to be indoors?!?! : D

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⚐⚑ Shen Zen Tea in the Fremont Sunday Market ⚐⚑


We know it has been a long time coming, folks, but Shen Zen Tea has finally made its way into a year-around market. And not just any market, the Fremont Sunday Market! Now you can visit the Fremont Troll, have some awesome falafel from Falafel Salam, and an African Ginger Ale (hot or cold) from Shen Zen Tea right before the Super Bowl! Go Seahawks!
We will also be selling our organic loose leaf teas, so come by to sample some of our new teas since the farmer’s market season ended, like Herbal Revival or Coco Rooibos! We can also take email/phone orders and have you pick up your order from the Fremont Sunday Market free of shipping charge. See you at the market!

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☯ Discover the Zen of Green Tea ☯


Japanese green teas stand out from other green teas because of the way it is grown and prepared. Japanese green teas are steamed to stop the oxidation process and preserve the chlorophyll in the leaves and then roasted for flavor. Many Japanese green teas also grow in marine climates, where it is moist and cloudy, which makes the leaves on the tea plant greener. As a result, Japanese green teas are not only more delicious, but also healthier.

Our Shizouka Zencha is picked in the early spring, and is traditionally lightly brewed to have rich creamy and gentle vegetal notes, but can also be brewed longer to extract more intense flavors. Early season pickings of sencha tend to have more flavor, since the tea plant is dormant during the winter.

Our Kirishima Bancha is picked in the later summer and early fall because it is a more mature leaf compared to sencha. This gives the tea a more woody and robust taste that is very pleasant.

Genmaicha is our early spring sencha blended with roasted sticky rice. Traditionally, Zen Buddhists often cooked rice and boiled their tea water in the same vessel. When villagers drank tea at the monastery, they noticed a distinct roasted flavor in the green tea. They later discovered that overcooked rice was stuck on the bottom of the water vessel, which added flavor to the tea. Villagers enjoyed the flavor and later began to add roasted sticky rice to their tea to recreate the spiritual experience they had in the monastery.

Click here to learn more about the history and health benefits of Japanese Green tea.

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Detox and Revive


☯ Balance Your Health ☯

For all you fans of healthy living, we recently developed two new caffeine-free herbal blends, Herbal Zen Detox and Herbal Revival, that can aid in detoxing and replenishing your body; and, perhaps equally as importantly, they taste really good! Our philosophy behind tea and health is to make teas healthy and enjoyable so that tea lovers will make a habit of drinking them daily. Such a habit will have a more beneficial cumulative effect than only drinking the tea occasionally. It took us a lot of research and testing to finalize these blends, but they are finally here!

We revamped our Herbal Zen Detox to include even more important detoxifying ingredients such as organic milk thistle seeds, blueberries, and skullcaps while enhancing the blend’s taste. This detoxicating blend combines a melange of delicious ingredients, rendering a sweet yet cleansing and energizing infusion. The medley of herbs are strategically blended to aid in a detox routine.

Our new Herbal Revival compliments the Herbal Zen Detox very well because this blend was designed to add more nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants) to your diet. Herbal Revival contains many wholesome herbs and fruit, such as organic holy basil, nettle leaf, blueberries, apples and orange peels. This blend is smooth and refreshing. The earthy notes of holy basil and nettle leaves are balanced with fruity notes of apples and lemons.

Click here to browse our herbal infusions!

A note from Grace!


One of the perks of being married to a tea snob is that I get to watch and taste magic happen. As a naturopathic medical student, a major part of our curriculum is botanical medicine; and, it has been fun sharing ideas from what I’ve been learning in medical school with James and Neil.
The whole concept of “detoxing” is to relieve oxidative stress from your body — taking a moment to give your organs a break. The Herbal Zen Detox has herbs such as schizandra berries and milk thistle, which are stocked with antioxidants and are considered liver restoratives.Nettle leaves are nutritive and naturally packed with vitamins and minerals. They’re a perfect fit for the “revitalizing” blend. Combined with holy basil, fennel and the fruits, the Herbal Revival is a happy antioxidant medley.Remember, this should not replace professional medical advice. If you’re interested in pursuing a complete detox program, be sure to check in with your doctor on what options are available to work towards your goals

tea snob’s wife
herbal consultant