In India, the Hindi word for tea is "chai," and in China, "cha" is the Chinese word for "tea." In the West, the word "chai" is commonly used to describe a warming, spicy drink you can order at most coffee shops. This delightful blend of spices and teas comes together to make a creamy latte to a refreshing smoothie, and, of course, this article's main focus - is "chai tea."
In addition to being a tasty drink, a typical cup of chai is loaded with health benefits for the body and mind. Whether you want to lower your blood pressure, reduce blood sugar levels, lose weight, or get a good night's sleep, a hot and spicy cup of chai tea does this and a whole lot more. In this article, we'll explore the many health benefits of chai, learn what chai tea is, and what makes this such a popular drink.
Remember, if you're taking any prescribed medications, check with your doctor to determine if drinking chai tea may cause a problem.
What is Chai Tea?
True traditional Indian Chia tea is a classic spiced tea made with a hearty blend of spices and Indian black teas to give it its signature spicy flavor. This tea has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to treat ailments like an upset stomach or aches and pains. Even though most chai teas contain the same staple ingredients, each region has its own flavor profile.
Ingredients in Masala Chai Tea
The star ingredient in chai tea is undoubtedly black tea leaves. Black tea leaves are oxidized or exposed to air to dry and darken to bring out the tannins and rich flavor. Some of chai's main ingredients are cardamom, black pepper, ground cloves, fresh ginger root, cinnamon, and fennel. Since chai tea recipes are regional, they may call for black or green cardamom pods, and the amount of each spice may vary.
You may also find that some blends will combine black peppercorns, nutmeg, coriander seeds, allspice, fennel seeds, and star anise. Although most chai teas use black tea like Darjeeling or Ceylon, this unique blend puts together the healthy compounds of green tea with traditional chai spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger root, licorice root, clove buds, nutmeg, cardamom pod, and star anise.
With the addition of each new spice to chai tea, a unique health benefit is also added. From anti-inflammatory properties to antibacterial properties, antioxidants, and more, this spiced tea is packed with vital nutrients and compounds that improve human health.
What Does Chai Tea Taste Like?
Also known as masala chai, chai blends consist of spices and tea leaves. The blend is brewed and served with or without milk. Drinking chai brings a spicy warmth with earthy undertones that awaken the senses. Many people sweeten chai tea to bring out more of the fragrant spices' robust flavor, giving the drink a sweet taste.
Since it contains caffeine, chai tea works wonders as a coffee alternative to kickstart the day first thing in the morning. Masala chai tea is traditionally made by adding steamed milk, but this is optional. There is no fundamental rule to the milk you can use in chai tea. Stick with traditional dairy milk or try dairy-free milk such as almond or soy milk.
The Difference Between Black, Green, and Chai Teas
All true teas, such as black, green, oolong, and white, come from the same Camellia sinensis plant. The main difference between these teas is the level of processing, oxidization, drying, and rolling that each one goes through.
For example, black tea is the darkest tea because it goes through the most oxidization and drying. While green tea is oxidized less, retaining more green color in the tea leaves. Herbal tea is not a "true tea" since it is not made with leaves from the tea plant. Instead, herbal tea is made from other plants' flowers, stems, roots, spices, and leaves.
However, chai tea is a term used to describe a type of tea blend made from the leaves of the tea plant combined with herbs and spices to give the chai blend its unique flavor and aroma. Chai teas are typically made from black tea leaves, black tea bags, or a chai tea concentrate.
The Top Chai Tea Health Benefits
Whether you want to wake yourself up with a jolt of caffeine, boost your immune system, or shed a few pounds, you can turn to a warm and inviting cup of chai tea to help. This spicy tea has a delicious black tea and spice blend flavor and many health benefits. Let's look at the top chai tea's health benefits for your body and mind.
#1. Better Heart Health
Healthy blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and safe cholesterol levels are excellent for better heart health. The blend of spices and black tea in Chai tea may contain several heart-healing properties to help lower blood sugar levels and lower blood pressure creating a healthy heart.
For example, cinnamon may help with blood sugar and high blood pressure levels, and black tea can help lower blood cholesterol levels. A recent study suggested that as little as 120 mg of cinnamon can significantly reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. Several black tea studies show a link between drinking black tea and a reduced risk of heart disease while improving overall heart health.
#2. Reduced Blood Sugar Levels
Just like healthy blood pressure levels are good for overall health, so are optimum blood sugar levels. Cinnamon and ginger root have long been used to help with conditions in the body. Together they can help regulate blood sugar levels.
Ginger alone may help people suffering from type 2 diabetes, while cinnamon may help people with insulin resistance by lowering blood glucose levels. Lower insulin levels help the body use insulin more effectively to remove sugar from the blood and transport it to your cells.
A recent study showed that people with type 2 diabetes who ingested two grams of ginger powder daily experienced lowered blood sugar levels by up to 12%. There is more than enough ginger in a cup of chai tea to supply this amount. It is essential to mention that home-brewed chai tea, like this blend, typically contains more potent spices and fresher tea leaves than a chai tea or chai latte served at a large coffee shop chain.
#3. Digestive Aid
Chai tea contains ginger, a well-studied plant with several healing properties for digestion. Ginger can help soothe a sore stomach and relieve the effects of nausea. Ginger was the star of a recent study with over 1,000 pregnant women. The participants took a daily dose of 1.1-1.5 grams of ginger which helped reduce the onset of pregnancy-related nausea.
Cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, and cloves are also key ingredients in chai tea, and all of them possess antiviral and antibacterial properties that can soothe a sore stomach caused by a bacterial infection. Some studies suggest that black pepper may increase the digestive enzymes required to help break down food and support a well-functioning digestive system.
#4. Helps Promote Weight Loss
That cup of chai tea may help you lose weight and keep it off. Masala chai tea is made with milk and is a more hearty drink than plain black tea or coffee. It fills you up, reducing the desire to reach for a less healthy snack throughout the day.
Research suggests that the beneficial compounds found in the black tea used to make chai tea may help break down fat cells and reduce how many calories your body absorbs from food. Another study showed that drinking three cups of black tea daily may help prevent weight gain, reducing and keeping it off. In animal studies, consuming black pepper may help prevent the accumulation of fat cells throughout the body.
A chai tea made with low-fat or low-sugar milk will also help with weight loss goals. It is always best to incorporate a healthy diet and active lifestyle along with your daily cup of chai tea to get the most health benefits from chai. You may even be able to reach those desired weight loss goals sooner.
#5. Supports Your Immune System
A healthy immune system is the key to a healthy body. Drinking a few cups of chai tea daily has immune-boosting properties to help you get your immune system back on track. Chai tea contains cardamom, which is rich in vitamin C and several other vital nutrients that help keep your immune system running smoothly. Cardamom also has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties which help fight bacteria, fungal infections, and the common cold.
#6. Rich in Antioxidants
Chai tea contains black tea and certain spices containing polyphenols, including flavonoids, tannic acid, ellagitannin, and L-theanine. These polyphenols contain potent antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and protect cells from free radicals and cancer growth.
Clove and cinnamon contain some of the highest quantities of antioxidants of all spices. Both are typically used to give chai tea its signature flavor. A diet rich in antioxidants can also help slow and stop cell degeneration, the spread of bacteria, and viral attacks. These powerful antioxidants can even help slow the onset of neurological diseases like Alzheimer's disease and dementia while improving the brain's cognitive function.
#7. Energy Booster
Need a quick boost of energy to help you get your day started? Try chai tea instead of grabbing that cup of coffee for a jolt of caffeine! The black tea used in chai tea naturally contains caffeine but at a third of a cup of coffee.
The L-theanine content in this healthy beverage also balances the caffeine in tea. L-theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that helps reduce anxiety and promotes relaxation. This means that even if you consume several cups of chai tea daily, you'll get that much-needed energy boost from the caffeine without the caffeine jitters of coffee.
#8. Stress Reliever
As much as chai tea can wake you up, it can also help you feel more relaxed and calm. Since the caffeine levels are low, you feel energized but more relaxed than if you had a cup of coffee. Tea generally is soothing to drink. Since chai contains several aromatic spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and clove, your senses will enjoy the fragrant warmth of the spices combined with the sweetness of the tea, leaving you feeling less stressed and anxious.
What Is a Chai Tea Latte?
A chai latte is one of the most popular chai recipes besides traditional masala chai. Chai lattes have become a staple drink at many coffee shops. A chai latte is made by frothing up steamed milk with masala chai. The warm milk and spices are mixed vigorously and then topped with foam.
Some coffee connoisseurs see chai lattes as an alternative drink to cappuccinos and regular espresso coffee lattes. Like a regular latte, a chai latte is warming, invigorating, and if your barista is good, they'll decorate it with a sprinkled swirl of cinnamon or cocoa. You can even get this drink served hot or opt for an iced latte instead.
Not All Lattes Are Equal
A chai latte can be a delicious and healthy option if your coffee shop makes a healthy version with hot water, spices, and tea leaves. Or they could use a healthy blend like one of these. But it may not always be the case. While some cafes use a chai tea concentrate or tea bags, many chai recipes are created with a fresh chai blend of tea and spices. The recipes will vary in taste from cafe to cafe.
Ordering one of these drinks from your favorite coffee shop chain may not give you an authentic and traditional chai tea experience. Most chai-related drinks served in these coffee shops are loaded with sweeteners, flavors, and additives that give you an over-the-top drink saturated with an artificial chai taste.
Possible Side Effects
How much chai tea is safe to drink? There is minimal risk associated with drinking tea. Although chai has several health benefits, the drink may give certain people minor side effects. You may want to substitute the dairy milk for a non-dairy alternative if you are lactose intolerant.
If you're sensitive to caffeine or if you drink too much caffeine, you may experience some of these common side effects:
If you experience these symptoms after drinking chai, check with your doctor if your caffeine intake could be causing it.
Chai: The Healthy Choice
It's easy to enjoy the creamy flavor and the health benefits of your spicy sweet, steaming cup of chai. Whether you boil your spices and tea in hot water and make a traditional masala chai, order a cold or hot latte at your favorite cafe, or make a tasty cup using delicious chai tea blends like these, chai heals the body, calms the mind and warms the heart.