Chai tea not only delivers a heartwarming taste with every sip, but is also steeped with numerous health benefits!
Originally from India, chai tea is a widely popular beverage made from a combination of black tea, milk, and various spices. While the specific health benefits may vary depending on the ingredients and preparation, chai tea can offer several potential health benefits.
That’s because chai tea contains a combination of beneficial ingredients such as black tea, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and more. While the exact spice composition may vary across chai blends, these are some common spices found in chai tea that contribute to its beneficial properties.
Wait, where did chai tea come from?
Legend has it that chai has its roots in Ayurveda, an ancient Indian medicinal practice. Over 5,000 years ago, a king ordered the creation of a healing spiced beverage.
Originally, the drink did not contain tea leaves, milk, or sugar. It wasn't until the mid-1800s when British colonization introduced black tea leaves, milk, and sugar to the traditional spiced mixture, popularizing the modern version of masala chai we enjoy today. As chai spread across India, the specific spices used varied depending on the region or neighborhood where it was prepared.
Funny enough, the term "chai" originates from the Hindi word for "tea," which itself was derived from the Chinese word "cha" meaning "tea,” so saying chai tea is repetitive in a way.
In most modern day contexts, when you come across chai, it often refers to a spiced tea infusion.
Do keep in mind that there are a variety of different Chai recipes and blends across continents, cultures, towns, and families. However, traditional chai blends typically consist of black tea combined with robust spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, and black peppercorns.
The 18 potential health benefits of chai tea:
- Antioxidant boost: Chai tea contains black tea, which is rich in antioxidants that help protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals.
- Digestive support: The spices in chai tea, such as ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon, can aid digestion, reduce bloating, and relieve stomach discomfort.
- Anti-inflammatory properties: Some spices in chai, including ginger and cinnamon, have anti-inflammatory effects that may help reduce inflammation in the body.
- Immune system support: The spices in chai tea, such as cloves and black pepper, possess antimicrobial properties that can support the immune system and help fight off infections.
- Heart health promotion: Black tea, a primary ingredient in chai, has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and improved cardiovascular health markers. According to one study, 3-6 cups daily was associated with a reduced risk of heart problems.
- Improved digestion of fats: The black tea and spices in chai, like cardamom and ginger, have been traditionally used to aid the digestion of fats.
- Blood sugar regulation: Some studies suggest that the spices found in chai tea, such as cinnamon and cloves, may help regulate blood sugar levels.
- Enhanced cognitive function: Chai tea contains caffeine, which can improve focus, alertness, and cognitive function.
- Stress reduction: The warming spices in chai, such as cinnamon and cloves, can have a soothing effect and help reduce stress levels — particularly oxidative stress levels in humans.
- Increased metabolism: Some of the spices in chai, such as ginger and black pepper, are believed to have metabolism-boosting properties.
- Oral health benefits: Black tea, a key component of chai, contains compounds that may help inhibit the growth of bacteria associated with tooth decay and gum disease. According to studies, it’s considered an herbal mouthwash.
- Weight management: Chai tea, when consumed without added sugars or sweeteners, can be a low-calorie beverage option that may aid in weight management.
- Bone health support: The black tea in chai contains compounds that may contribute to improved bone density and reduced risk of osteoporosis.
- Anticancer properties: Some studies suggest that the polyphenols in black tea may possess anticancer properties and help inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
- Improved mood and relaxation: Chai tea's combination of warm spices and caffeine can provide a sense of relaxation and contribute to an improved mood.
- Anti-nausea properties: Chai tea often contains ginger, which is known for its anti-nausea properties. Consuming chai tea with ginger may help alleviate nausea and promote feelings of comfort during digestive upset or morning sickness.
- Respiratory health support: Certain spices commonly found in chai tea, such as cloves and cardamom, have been used traditionally to support respiratory health. These spices may help soothe coughs, clear congestion, and promote overall respiratory well-being.
- Enhanced antioxidant absorption: Some studies suggest that the combination of black tea and spices in chai may enhance the absorption and utilization of antioxidants from other foods consumed along with it. This can potentially amplify the overall antioxidant benefits of a meal.
How regularly should I drink chai tea to maximize health benefits?
However, as a general guideline, regular consumption of chai tea could mean incorporating it into your routine a few times a week or even daily. It's important to listen to your body and adjust the frequency according to your own tolerance and any potential reactions you may experience.
Always remember that “regular consumption" can vary depending on your own individual preferences and health considerations.
How is chai tea traditionally prepared?
The spiced tea is often brewed strongly, mixed with milk, and sweetened with honey or sugar. Nevertheless, the modern milky and sweet tea commonly found in coffee and tea shops today bears a notable resemblance to the authentic origins of Indian chai.
Making your own chai tea at home: 7 Step-by-step directions
Chai tea is typically prepared by steeping a blend of black tea, spices, milk, and sweetener. While the exact preparation method may vary, here's a general guide to preparing chai tea:
- Gather the ingredients: You will need black tea leaves or tea bags, spices (such as cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cloves, ginger, and black peppercorns), milk (dairy or non-dairy alternatives), sweetener (like sugar, honey, or a natural sweetener), and water.
- Prepare the spice blend: In a saucepan, combine the desired spices (crushed or whole) with water. Common spice ratios include 1 cinnamon stick, 4-6 cardamom pods, 4-6 cloves, a small piece of ginger, and a pinch of black peppercorns. Adjust the spices according to your taste preferences.
- Simmer the spices: Bring the spice mixture to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Allow it to simmer for about 5-10 minutes, allowing the flavors to infuse into the water.
- Add black tea: Add black tea leaves or tea bags to the simmering spice mixture. Use approximately 2-3 teaspoons of loose tea or 2-3 tea bags per cup of water. Continue simmering for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add milk: Pour in the desired amount of milk. Traditional chai recipes often use whole milk, but you can choose any type of milk, including dairy-free alternatives like almond, soy, or oat milk. Adjust the milk quantity based on your preference for a stronger or milder tea.
- Sweeten to taste: Add sweetener such as sugar, honey, or a natural sweetener like maple syrup. Stir well and taste as you go, adding more sweetener if desired.
- Strain and serve: Once the chai tea is well-infused and flavors have melded, strain the mixture to remove the tea leaves and spices. Pour the chai into cups or mugs and serve hot.
Note: The specific measurements and brewing times may vary based on personal preference and the strength of flavors desired. It's always a good idea to experiment with proportions to find the perfect balance for your taste!
Additionally, there are a variety of ready-to-use chai tea mixes or chai tea bags you can find online or in-store, which can be steeped in hot water and then mixed with milk and sweetener according to the package instructions.
Remember, chai tea can be customized to suit individual preferences, so feel free to adjust the spice levels, sweetness, and choice of milk to create your ideal cup of chai tea.
What is Dr. Weil’s favorite way to prepare chai tea? With matcha tea, of course!
We’ve actually outlined 6 reasons why combining matcha tea with chai is packed with a long-list of boosted health benefits. You can read the full article here.
Our new Organic Matcha Masala Chai is sure to bring a spark of joy into your collective wellness & our daily health rituals. Shop our organic matcha masala chai mix today!
The bottom line: try adding chai to your wellness routine
From antimicrobial effects to better bone health to contributing to healthy weight management, there is no doubt that chai tea has the potential to offer a range of well-studied health benefits. It is rich in antioxidants, supporting cellular health and reducing the risk of chronic diseases. The combination of spices, including ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon, aids digestion, alleviates bloating, and possesses anti-inflammatory properties.
Regular consumption of chai tea, which contains black tea, may promote heart health, regulate blood sugar levels, and aid in the digestion of fats. Its caffeine content can enhance cognitive function and mental alertness. Chai's warming spices, including cinnamon and cloves, also help reduce stress levels and potentially increase metabolism.
It's important to remember that while chai tea may offer potential health benefits, individual results can vary. Also, it's always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized advice, especially if you have specific health concerns or conditions.
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