Chai Tea – What Is It, Health Benefits and How to Make It


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Originating from the Indian Subcontinent, Chai Tea has now become a strong contender for one of the most commonly drank beverages in the world. What was once nothing more than a regional indulgence, has now become a global phenomenon. So I simply had to write about it!

So, what exactly is Chai Tea? Chai Tea is a traditional form of tea, brewed using milk and water. In addition, it contains an assortment of spices such as cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, saffron, and star anise, to provide an enticing flavor and many health benefits. But first we need to get the name right! Let’s explore it further.

The word ‘Chai‘ itself means tea in Hindi. It’s derived from the Chinese word ‘cha‘ for tea. when translated, Chai Tea simply means ‘tea tea’.

That’s right, no matter what the Starbucks menu tells you, Chai Tea is not an apt name for it. It reads “tea tea”

In fact, Masala Chai – which translates to spice tea, is a much more appropriate name. However, to quote Shakespeare, ‘What’s in a name?’ I am sure the Masala Chai would taste just as fine regardless of what it’s called.

‘What’s in a name?’

William Shakespeare

In the western world, Chai Tea might not be much more than a fancy variant of the regular tea, but in many parts of the world, especially in countries such as India and Pakistan, it is nothing short of a staple beverage.

Whether you need a pick me up in the morning, a boost of energy in the afternoon, something to spice up your evenings, or a companion for late night talk sessions, Chai Tea comes as the perfect solution.

Oh, and in case you hadn’t noticed… for the purposes of this article, and for  consistency, let’s just carry on calling it Chai Tea.

Caffeine Content in Chai Tea

The typical chai tea is a blend of black tea mixed with strong spices, and black tea contains caffeine. The amount of caffeine in a standard cup of chai tea depends on the quantity of black tea and how long the tea was brewed.

According to a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an 8 ounce cup of black tea, brewed for 3 minutes, has 30-80 mg of caffeine.

Furthermore, in comparison with other teas, 1 cup of chai tea latte has approximately 50 mg of caffeine, whereas green tea has 35-60 mg, and coffee has 75-150. Note that. According to Medline Plus, Up to 400 milligrams daily is considered a moderate amount of caffeine for most healthy people

Chai Tea in Different Cultures

From the time when tea was first discovered in 2737 BCE, by Chinese emperor Shennong, Tea has evolved much in the way it is prepared.

While different countries have different methods of preparations, and different rituals associated to it, drinking tea remains a social event all over the world. Let’s learn a little about the importance of chai tea as per different cultures.

China

It was a Chinese emperor, Shennong, who introduced the world to tea. Since then tea has been an integral part of the Chinese culture. The climate of China is feasible for the cultivation of a number of different types of teas.

China is much known for its famous “Gongfu tea ceremony”. “Gongfu cha” means “making tea with skills”. This is a 20-25 minutes long ceremony involving the ceremonial preparation and serving of oolong tea as a sign of respect.

Guests are supposed to drink the tea in three sips, while “cradling” the cup with both hands.

Japan

Japan, too, is known for its extensive tea ceremonies like the Chanoyu, Sado, or Ocha. Tea ceremonies in Japan are all about spending quality time with friends. One of the most famous antioxidant tea, Matcha, is cultivated and widely served in Japan.

Of all the Japanese tea ceremonies, Chanoyu (“hot water for tea”) ceremony is highly significant due to its ceremonial and ritual aspect. It includes the preparation and presentation of a powdered green tea- matcha in traditional tea houses and private tea rooms.

It is generally served with sweets to counter the bitter flavor of matcha.

India

India is the second largest producer of tea and you will witness the availability of a wide variety of chai here, the most preferred being the chai tea. There isn’t a station or street in India where you wouldn’t find a chaiwalla (tea vendor).  

Not only is chai the national drink of India, but it is also an integral part of day-to-day life.  If you ever happen to be invited at an Indian household, it is guaranteed that you won’t come back without having had a cup of chai.

Pakistan

Chai tea is one of the most consumed beverages in Pakistan, as popular as Yerba Mate in South America, and a common household staple. People here usually start and end their day with tea, have an occasional cup in the evening by the name of “tea break”, and serve it to guests in courtesy.

Pakistanis consume different varieties of chai, including doodh patti, Kashmiri chai, and kehwa.  

The Kashmiri chai, which is a pink colored blend of pistachios, almonds, salt, and milk, is reserved for special occasions. The doodh patti, however, is served more casually.

Britain

Britain is most famous for its afternoon tea. The tradition of afternoon tea was introduced by the seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna, when she requested her household staff to serve a mini-meal around 4 p.m. consisting of tea, cakes, and sandwiches.

Initially the afternoon tea culture was restricted to the upper class, but now it has become a part of the middle class set up as well. The afternoon tea consists of tea, scones, cakes, and sandwiches. Similar to Cream Tea.

Morocco

Morocco is known for its Touareg tea which is an essential part of Moroccan culture and is basically a mint flavored tea made from mint leaves, green tea leaves, and sugar.

It is usually served to guests in tall, slim glasses over three servings instead of tea-cups. Moreover, each serving has a uniquely contrasting taste than the other for which it is said that…

“The first glass is as gentle as life,

the second is as strong as love,

the third, as bitter as death.”

Touareg tea is offered to guests as a gesture of hospitality, and refusing it is considered as being rude.

Thailand

The ‘cha-yen’ or iced tea of Thailand is one of the most popular teas in the world. The amber colored ‘cha-yen’ is made with strongly brewed black tea, condensed milk, sugar, and spices including orange blossom, cinnamon, star anise and tamarind.

What Is Masala Chai

It’s said, some 9000 years ago, in an ancient royal court in India, the masala chai was originated as an ayurvedic beverage for cleansing purposes. The masala tea, also known as spiced tea, is basically a blend of black tea brewed with aromatic Indian spices.

Common Spices Found in Masala Chai

A steaming, delicious cup of masala chai is procured using a minimum of five spices; although you can also use more to give it its signature flavor and aroma.

The most essential spice, that gives masala chai its unique sweet fragrance and calming properties, is the green cardamom. The fragrant green cardamom makes the base of the masala chai.

This base is followed up with other spices. Cinnamon is also one of the main components of the tea chai, and gives the chai a warm, sweet flavor.

Of course, ginger and peppercorn, are also important ingredients as they add the spice factor in the masala chai. Other spices that are used include cloves, coriander seeds, and star anise.

chai spices

Where Can You Find Masala Chai?

Head over to any coffee house or café, and chances are high that you will find Chai Tea or Chai Latte included in the menu.

Luckily though, it is super easy to prepare Masala Chai at home too. You can prepare it from the scratch, using tea bags or opting for concentrates bought from a store. Of course, the tastes will vary in accordance with your ingredient choices.

Just make sure that you go for the one which has limited the sweetener, otherwise the high levels of sugar will undo all the potential health benefits of masala chai.

Health Benefits Associated with Chai Tea

Infused with a number of spices, chai tea provides you with more than just a caffeine kick. It is no wonder that this version of tea originated in the spice haven of the world, India.

Tea in itself is linked to several health benefits, and when it comes to Chai Tea, the ranking is significantly higher on the health meter.

Although this interesting beverage has been attributed to several health benefits, it is worth mentioning that most of them are associated with the individual ingredients and spices found in the concoction. Here are some of the advantages of drinking Chai Tea:

Chai Tea ranks significantly higher on the health meter.

1. Helps to Wake You Up

Most of us need a caffeinated drink first thing in the morning to wake us up and kick start our day. Chai tea is a much healthier option and a great coffee substitute.

The caffeine content in chai tea is less than coffee, yet it helps in waking you up and focus better. Furthermore, thanks to its low caffeine content and healthy spices, you can easily consume three to four cups of chai tea a day without any negative side effects.

Also, if you are trying to quit coffee, switching to chai tea is advisable, since it prevents the withdrawal symptoms of going cold turkey, and offers you a similar stimulant effect.

2. Is Effective for Menstrual Cramps and PMS

Ginger and fennel are the two hero ingredients in chai tea when it comes to countering PMS and menstrual cramps.

Salicylate, a compound found in ginger, helps relieve menstrual cramps, thanks to its pain relieving properties. A study done on the effectiveness of fennel extract for menstrual cramps revealed a reduction in pain in 52% of the girls tested after 3 days of taking fennel extract.

Hence, it can be said that ginger/fennel tea serves as an effective natural remedy in alleviating menstrual cramps in women.

3. Lowers the Risk of Type Two Diabetes

The cinnamon in chai tea is extremely beneficial for people living with type-two diabetes. Cinnamon helps type two diabetic patients by lowering their blood sugar levels and reducing insulin resistance, thus making it easier for them to effectively manage it.

Moreover, sweet cinnamon bark also helps reduce sugar cravings.

It is also noted that Type two diabetes patients often encounter symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, and anxiety; cinnamon in chai tea helps alleviate these symptoms by stabilizing blood sugar.

Furthermore, Polyphenols, antioxidants found in black tea stimulate B-cells to increase insulin production in the body. Hence, it is highly advisable for type two diabetes patients to consume at least two cups of sugar-free chai tea to yield its benefits.

4. Can Keep Your Blood Pressure in Check

Many people are unaware that the sweet fragrance of cinnamon in their chai tea doesn’t just add the sweet kick to their chai, but also does them a favor by reducing their blood pressure.

According to a study done on Rodents, it was discovered that cinnamon extract can lower sudden-onset and prolonged high blood pressure. While another study reveals that having four or more cups of black tea per day may slightly reduce blood pressure levels.

So don’t hesitate in grabbing another cup of your beloved chai tea if your blood pressure fluctuates often.

5. Improves Cardiac Health

Two common ingredients found in Chai Tea, namely cinnamon and black tea, are both closely related to a healthy heart, since cinnamon is known to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Some surveys suggest that incorporating as little as 120 milligrams of cinnamon in your daily diet are sufficient to reap these heart related health benefits.

Meanwhile, black tea also helps keep your cholesterol and blood pressure levels in check, hence consuming at least three cups of black tea daily can lower the risk of contracting heart diseases by 11 percent.

chai tea health benefits
chai tea improves cardiac health

6. Helps with Digestion and Nausea

The presence of ginger in Chai Tea makes it an effective remedy for nausea, especially nausea which becomes a nuisance during pregnancy.

Miraculously, a little as one to one and a half grams of ginger can greatly reduce nausea.

Coincidentally, this is just the amount you can expect to find in a cup of Chai Tea, provided that you are brewing up ginger tea.

Meanwhile cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and black pepper, found in Masala Chai, all have antibacterial properties that help combat digestive problems caused by bacteria and infections. Moreover, black pepper has also been linked with an increased production of digestive enzymes in the body.

7. Can Help You Lose Weight

Did you know that your morning cuppa chai tea is actually good for weight loss too, among the other benefits?

Yes, that’s absolutely true! The spices used to prepare chai tea are all fat fighting agents.

We have ginger which helps fight bloat and inflammation, then there is the absolute favorite cinnamon which is good for your digestive system and has been used for ages, and you can even add in honey which is an excellent ingredient for weight loss purposes.

Besides, the fennel used in chai tea has natural diuretic properties. So, all in all, chai tea boosts your metabolism and improves your digestive system, thereby resulting in a feeling of fullness, and minimizes cravings.

8. Helps Relieve Aches and Pain

Your flavorful cup of chai tea contains many potent antioxidants that fight inflammation in body, and alleviate pain.

In fact, scientific studies reveal that the anti-inflammatory properties found in ginger and cinnamon may even aid in relieving in arthritic pains.

According to a study, ginger was found to be as effective in alleviating pain as 250 mg of Mefenamic Acid and 400mg Ibuprofen; both of which are painkillers.

The aromatic clove in chai tea contains an active component, Eugenol, which has anesthetic and analgesic properties. Eugenol is found to block certain pain receptors for as long as up to fifteen minutes.

Clove has been used for ages as a natural remedy for dental ailments. Studies reveal that clove oil is as effective as a dental analgesic, benzocaine.

9. Provides Support to Your Immune System

Are you aware of the fact that a cup of your favorite chai tea is brimming with immune boosting ingredients that not only strengthens your immune system, but also provides protection from common diseases?

Ginger, for instance, is highly effective in easing sore throats and influenza symptoms.

The aromatic cardamom, on the other hand, helps relieve respiratory allergies. The high quantity of vitamin C found in cardamom is especially beneficial for keeping your immune system healthy.

Furthermore, the black cardamom is more famous for its antiseptic properties, while the green cardamom is known for its soothing and detoxifying properties.

Despite the back and green cardamom having different flavor and properties, both are equally effective for giving a boost to your immune system.

10. Has Anti Carcinogenic Properties

It is no wonder that chai tea is effective against reducing the risk of cancer, given the high amounts of antioxidants it contains.

Black tea, in itself, contains Thearubigins, epicatechins, and catechins; all of which are anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory antioxidants.

Free radicals are responsible for deteriorating the DNA, thereby leading to growth of cancer cells.

However, the antioxidants in chai tea prevent cancer by fighting the onset of free radical. Moreover, cardamom, in this regard, is especially effective against skin cancer and has been shown to decrease the size and number of skin papilloma.

11. Helps Prevent Numerous Diseases

The onset of free radicals leads to many chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, and Parkinson’s.

Luckily, Polyphenols, an antioxidant, in chai tea can help in eliminating these free radicals thereby, preventing chronic diseases.

In addition, the antifungal and antimicrobial properties of Clove and cinnamon help against many fungal and bacterial infections.

Also, Black tea itself aids in improving bone density, and protects against osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Cardamom and ginger, on the other hand, are effective against constipation.

So all in all, your cup of chai tea has a number of health benefits backed by scientific research.

The Different Types of Chai Tea

It is a common misconception that it was the British who introduced the concept of tea in India. However, history derives several accounts of people from Assam in India brewing a concoction which is quite similar to what we now call chai tea.

While there is no right or wrong way to brew chai tea, it can be broken down into four different methods that yield equally delicious chai tea. There can in fact be different methods of making chai tea in different cultures and households. Here are some of the common ways:

1. The Traditional Everyday Chai Tea

This method calls for brewing the chai tea leaves in hot water, and topping it up with milk and honey/sugar.

In a small saucepan, add 3-4 tsp. of chai tea and 1-1.5 cups of water. Bring to boil, and let simmer for five minutes.

Add one cup of milk, and heat for a further two minutes. Strain into a cup, and add sweetener of your choice.

The secret to a more enhanced flavor is to let the chai tea brew a little longer on a low flame, and you will have a flavorsome steaming mug of chai tea ready.

2. The Chai Tea Latte

The famous “doodh patti”, which translates into “milk and tea leaves” from Hindi, is your standard chai tea taken up a notch.

This recipe calls for brewing your tea leaves in boiling milk instead of water, and leaving it to brew a little longer than the regular chai tea since it takes more time for the tea leaves to release flavor in milk.

3. The “Karha/Kahwa” Style Chai Tea

This is your regular chai tea – minus the milk, and is more famous between the health enthusiasts. It is usually taken post meal to aid digestion, and popular in the Arab culture.You can also assume it to be the same as black tea.

4. Iced Chai Tea

As the name suggests, your regular chai tea is made fancier and more refreshing by cooling it, adding milk, and popping in a few ice cubes. Some people also prefer leaving out the milk and instead add in fruit flavors to their iced tea.

How to Brew a Cup of Chai Tea

To prepare a steaming cup of delicious Chai tea in the comfort of your own home, follow the Recipe below:-

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 teabags of black tea
  •  8 cardamom seeds
  • 7 cloves
  • 8 teaspoons (or more) of sugar
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • A one inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 2 cups of whole milk

Preparation Method:

  1. Coarse grind the cardamom, cloves, and peppercorns in a grinder.
  2. Place the crushed spices, cinnamon sticks, and ginger in a small saucepan.
  3. Add milk and 2 cups of water.
  4. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat.
  5. Add the tea bags after removing from heat.
  6. Cover, and let it steep for 10 minutes.
  7. Strain into cups and adjust sugar as per your liking.
  8. Enjoy!
chai tea to share

Can You Store Chai Tea?

As with regular teas, chai tea can also be stored. However, keep the following storage tips in mind to keep the flavor and aroma of your chai tea intact.

Keep at room temperature: the ideal temperature for storing chai tea is 20 to 25°C), that is, room temperature

Protect tea from its foes: light, heat, and moisture are the foes of tea. Light and heat degrade tea by activating enzymes that kill its freshness. Therefore, Store tea in a cool, dark place away from light, heat and moisture. Also, avoid refrigerating or freezing.

Always buy in small quantities:
buy tea in small quantities and mark the date of buying.

Avoid air exposure: Chai tea is best stored in an airtight, non-plastic, opaque container. This is because the more chai tea is exposed to oxygen the more it loses its flavor and aroma, and absorbs odor and moisture from the surrounding. The ideal storage options are Glass, tin or aluminum containers.

Put Chai tea in isolation: chai tea has its own unique aroma and flavor, and to keep it intact it should be kept separated from other strong odor items in your pantry.

Conclusion

I hope this has been informative enough in telling you all about Chai Tea, Masala Tea, Iced tea, Iced Tea Latte and karha/kahwa Chai. If I’ve missed anything then please be sure to leave a comment below.

No doubt, if you’ve been to India and other areas then you’re very familiar with Chai Tea, if not then I’d definitely recommend trying it, if not at a speciality cafe then making it yourself at home. It’s a real treat.

Related Questions

Can You Prepare and Save Chai Tea? Yes, you can prepare chai tea as a concentrate and refrigerate it for later use. Once refrigerated, it can usually be used up to a week. Beyond that it should be discarded.

How Many Cups of Chai Tea Can Be Consumed in a Day? There are mixed views on the amount of consumption of chai tea given the benefits it provides. However it should be kept in mind that chai tea contains black tea, which has caffeine. Caffeine, when consumed in large quantities, can have unpleasant side effects on one’s body and it is therefore advisable to not consume more than three to five cups of chai tea per day.

How Many Calories Are There in a Cup of Indian Chai Tea? Depending on your method of preparation, the amount of calories in a cup can vary. A typical chai latte made at home using half cup of nonfat milk and half a tablespoon of honey contains 75 calories, whereas a 12-ounce version made with whole milk contains approximately 200 calories.

Chai Tea and Chai Latte; What’s the Difference? A chai tea is a spiced black tea which can be served with or without milk, but mostly it is done so without milk. Whereas, the chai tea latte is a special chai concentrate mixed with steamed milk.

References:
7 amazing health benefits of chai tea – cupandleaf.com
Top 10 Tea Loving Countries – worldatlas.com
Why You Should be drinking chai tea – positivehealthwellness.com
How To Store Chai Tea – teatulia.com

2 Replies to “Chai Tea – What Is It, Health Benefits and How to Make It”

  1. Thanks for the comment Bruno, and what a great piece of information too, thank you 🙂

  2. Such a wonderful, comprehensive article! Did you know that the earlier versions of chai in India didn’t have any actual tea in it? It was simply made up of various spices! The tea only really came into play after British colonization!

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