This little fruit offers a liquorice-like bouquet that builds nicely into the complexity of the chai spice mix. Like most of the spices in this masala chai, star anise has considerable health benefits.
It is known to:
~ be a digestive aid helping to relieve gas, bloating, abdominal cramps, constipation, indigestion and stomach aches
~ help expel mucus thanks to its expectorant properties—which is the liquefaction of thick mucus—aiding healing from colds and the flu
~ have antiviral properties
~ be an antioxidant helping to ward off certain types of cancer
Be aware that Chinese star anise is considered safe for consumption and provides many health benefits. The Japanese star anise, however, is toxic when ingested and should never be consumed. Also be aware that you can't tell the difference between the two dried spices. Read your package carefully before adding to your tea.
On a different and slightly less alarming note, an alternative to star anise—should you not be able to locate it at your local grocer, or you've been turned off by the warning stated above, or you simply find it too darn pretty to put into your tea to be discarded only a short time later—is fennel. It offers a similar flavor and depth and is a fine substitution for star anise in masala chai.
My chai without one or the other of these ingredients always leaves something to be desired. Don't be left desiring. Add the darling star anise or the budget friendly fennel. You'll be glad you did.
Please note: The ideas shared here are for informational purposes only and do not substitute for professional medical diagnosis or treatment. Please consult with your professional health care provider regarding your unique health concerns.
Something about tonight's Superbowl Halftime show made me flash back to the cover art from this remarkable '90s hip-hop group. Cue the Lite Brite costumes on the Black Eyed Peas backup dancers, perhaps one of the more interesting parts of the show.