Why is the Chai Blue?

So you find yourself in a coffee shop one day and watch a guy ahead of you picking up a brilliant blue drink. It looks like Smurf blood with a swirl of foam, yet strangely appealing. You ask your barista what the beverage is.

“It’s blue Chai, made with blue Matcha”, she answers helpfully.

“What is blue Matcha?”

“It’s made from the butterfly pea flower”, she states.

You tip, take your ordinary old chai to a table and seriously wonder about the mushrooms that were on that slice of pizza you had before bed.

But it is all true. There is indeed a butterfly pea flower, which produces a brilliant, almost indigo-colored dye which changes color to bright purple with the addition of an acid, such as a squeeze of lime juice. Long used as an iced tea drink in south-east Asia, butterfly pea flower tea is becoming very popular in the U.S. among baristas and mixologists.

Everything is sunny when it comes to blue chai. Technically, Matcha is a special powdered tea made from young tea leaves grown in the shade and dried in cool sheds, This is a little picky from an American standpoint, as we can, and do, legally call a variety of powdered teas ‘Matcha’. ‘Chai’ simply means ‘tea’, usually spiced. Butterfly pea flower tea is marketed as such, or as blue Matcha or blue chai.

Green tea and true Matcha are credited with a number of health benefits. Butterfly pea flower tea also is said to have some positive effects, although they are different. Blue chai is caffeine free and may soothe anxiety. It is entirely non-toxic and certainly the most healthful blue food coloring agent available if you discount alkalized purple cabbage juice, which is somewhat lacking in mass appeal.

The butterfly pea flower plant is a quick growing ground cover found in tropical regions around the world, and it is used as an inexpensive and nourishing feed for livestock. Readily available, the tea isn’t expensive and it is relatively easy to source. Blue chai is always spiced a little bit, most often with lemongrass and ginger.Instagram and Pinterest have terrific sections on blue Matcha drinks.

Check it out for yourself! If you don’t feel like making your own blue chai you can always impress your friends by ordering some at the coffee shop. As an added bonus, blue chai doesn’t turn your tongue blue, so you can take your selfie with confidence.

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T.N.Cheshire is a retired Chef with a background in sociology and business. She writes about food, humor and life all around us.

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