Chai is a beverage colored in history as rich as its taste. It’s very name means “tea” in Hindi, and it is a word many nations worldwide use for tea.
But chai is not tea in the truest sense of the world, it is more of a collection of spices mixed together and put into a type of drink very much like the tea we are familiar with.
Chai has become so widespread that there are a plethora of recipes for preparing it, varying from continent to continent, even from family to family.
The most common way of making it is putting spices into black tea – cinnamon, cloves, black peppercorn, cardamom, even ginger.
Brew this mixture in milk, taste it, and you’ll see just why chai is so popular a beverage.
But what really matters for this text is: does chai have any beneficial effects on our health? It very much does.
As tasty as it is, chai is also just as healthy. Let’s see just how chai works to make us strong and healthy!
- 1 CHAI TEA: THE ORIGINS OF A BEVERAGE
- 2 WHAT IS CHAI TEA MADE OF?
- 3 CHAI TEA AND OUR HEALTH
- 4 DOSAGE AND POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS
- 5 HOW TO BREW CHAI TEA?
- 6 FINAL WORD
CHAI TEA: THE ORIGINS OF A BEVERAGE
There is an ancient legend of the origins of chai.
According to the story, long ago, a rich and famous king grew ill, so he summoned all the most renowned sages of his land (today’s India), and asked to concoct a brew with healing properties, so he could be healed.
The sages gathered and found the solution in the ancient healing tradition of Ayurveda.
Ayurveda works by utilizing various types of spices in the process of healing.
Ginger and black pepper, allegedly, improve digestion because of their heat.
Cinnamon was used to fixing respiratory issues. Cardamom was used to improve one’s mood, and cloves had the role of painkillers.
By combining these spices together, they created chai.
Interestingly enough, there weren’t any actual tea leaves in the original mixture.
That came a lot later in its history. Even milk and sugar are a fairly recent addition.
All this came to be in the 1800s, during the period of the British rule in India.
In that period, the British discovered and cultivated a strain of Camellia sinensis, called Camellia sinensis assamica.
This tea plant was just what the British needed, since their passion for good, strong tea, served with a bit of milk and sugar, of course, was already very well known.
WHAT IS CHAI TEA MADE OF?
There are many different ways of making chai, and because of so many variations, the definitive recipe for making chai does not exist.
However, there are four basic components presents in basically every variant of chai, and we shall discuss all four of them.
The word for spices used in brewing chai is masala, and their exact mixture differs from region to region. Those most available throughout India we’ve already mentioned: cardamom, black peppercorns, cinnamon, and cloves are widely used even today.
Later on, there came new additions to this formula when vanilla, nutmeg, fennel and star anise were introduced, and they are still in use.
As chai grew in popularity and the number of fans grew, new spices entered the mixture.
Bay leaf, saffron, cacao, and allspice became a popular novelty, alongside with coriander and cumin, further increasing the number of potential spice mixtures.
When it comes to sweeteners, the most typically used sweeteners used for brewing chai are sugar (both brown and white sugar) and honey.
However, other sweeteners are gradually introduced as well.
Coconut, demerara, and turbinado are also widely used, while in some parts of India people use jaggery, which is, essentially, unrefined cane sugar.
In India, the way chai is typically brewed is by using buffalo milk.
When it comes to Western variations, cow milk is much more accessible, so this type of milk is in greater use.
There are some alternatives to cow milk: coconut milk, soy milk, rice milk, even almond milk are excellent options, while worldwide, even goat and yak milk are used for making chai.
Since recipes differ so much, the milk is used differently as well.
According to some recipes, milk is used to dilute the chai previously cooked in water, in order to mellow the taste a bit.
Other recipes suggest using either pure milk or a mixture of milk and water to brew this beverage.
And finally, we get to actual tea leaves. When it comes to the sorts of tea used in chai making are two types of black tea native to India: the Assam and the Darjeeling.
However, you can use more or less any type of tea as a base for chai.
Green teas, yerba mate, both are perfectly suitable for chai, or you can simply disregard tea leaves and make chai without them.
CHAI TEA AND OUR HEALTH
As we have already mentioned, chai is originally created for healing purposes.
But does it actually have any healing properties?
It most certainly does.
Despite the fact that some aspects of traditional healing practices are all but effective, the mixtures used for brewing chai can be of great help when it comes to health.
1. Heart Rate Improvement
Earlier in the text, we’ve mentioned how cinnamon has quite a positive effect, for it lowers and stabilizes blood pressure.
There are even documented cases showing that show the drop of the LDL type of cholesterol, triglycerides, and the common cholesterol by nearly 30%!
The studies used much higher doses than those found in chai, but the effects are obvious nonetheless.
It must be noted, however, that cinnamon is not the only ingredient of chai connected to heart rate improvement.
Another important factor regarding heart rate is the black tea leaves themselves.
Black tea is noted to have very positive effects on cholesterol reduction and bringing your heartbeat to healthy and acceptable levels.
The majority of researches show that, if a person drinks four cups of black tea per day (or more), after a period of time the reduction of blood pressure levels becomes evident.
Three or more cups per day reduce the risk of potential heart issues by up to 11%.
As good as all this sound, these data do not absolutely confirm the magnitude of chai tea’s effects.
These results are more than promising, but for them to be confirmed beyond doubt, we need research on more direct effect chai tea has on the overall health of our heart.
2. Reduction of Blood Sugar Levels
When it comes to regulating the levels of sugar in your blood, chai tea proves its usefulness even in this case.
This is because of the fact that it often has cinnamon and ginger within its mixture, and these spices are considered to be very effective when it comes to blood sugar control.
Cinnamon, for instance, can reportedly reduce insulin resistance buy up to 30%!
If you’re having issues with blood sugar, this will be of great help to you.
Lowering the insulin resistance enables it to be more effective when it comes to distributing sugar out of your bloodstream and straight into your cells, which can be of great help with regulating your blood sugar levels.
Some recent studies seem to confirm this.
People suffering from type 2 diabetes were given daily doses of ginger powder (2g per dose).
When it was over, the data gathered showed that the patients’ level of blood sugar was actually lowered by 12%.
If you decide to try and use chai tea in order to reduce your blood sugar levels, you need to know that the amount of cinnamon and ginger usually found within an average cup of chai tea is too small to have any notable effect.
For this reason, it would be smart for you to make chai on your own instead of buying it, so you can add as much cinnamon and ginger as you need.
Another good reason why brewing your own customized chai tea is the fact that chai tea available at various teahouses and cafés are often made with a lot of various sweeteners put into the mixture.
This much sweetness negates all beneficial effects of the chai, so that’s why should avoid sweeteners altogether.
3. Improvement of Digestion and Dealing with Nausea
Aside from it being useful in controlling blood sugar levels, ginger can also be used to counter nausea as well. This comes handy, especially in the pregnancy period.
According to several studies, it takes only 1-1.5g of ginger per day to significantly reduce all the effects of nausea, just the amount you can find within the average cup of chai tea.
Cinnamon comes to fore here as well, but aside ginger and cinnamon, cardamom and cloves can be used for this purpose as well.
Cardamom and cloves possess some very effective anti-bacterial properties and are a great way of combating and reducing the intensity of the detrimental effects caused by bacterial infection.
Yet another chai tea ingredient, black pepper, has also proved its use in a similar way.
Certain researches have shown that black pepper possesses not only anti-bacterial properties, but it also able to increase the number of enzymes our body needs in order for us to successfully digest our food.
Increased number of digestive enzymes leads to a much more effective digestive system, and that is always a plus.
There is, however, a caveat to it. The studies mentioned were conducted on animals, and the amount of black pepper used was 3-5 times higher than the amount an average human is able to consume.
Thus, the data we mentioned cannot be considered conclusive, so new, more precise research is needed.
4. Help with Weight Loss and Weight Regulation
Chai tea can be a great way for you to lose and control your weight.
We have already mentioned that, in order to prepare a proper cup of chai tea, we need milk, and cow milk and soy milk are excellent sources of protein, which makes us feel less hungry.
That way, chai tea is much more effective than some other types of tea when it comes to weight loss.
Due to its high nutritional value and protein-rich content, you may use chai tea as a power drink or power snack.
Even in this regard, black tea is effective, albeit during short periods of time.
Black tea possesses certain chemical compounds which increase the efficiency of your body’s process of burning fat and reduces the amount of fat absorbed from the consumed food.
Three cups of black tea per day should be more than enough, according to some researches, but as we’ve said, the effect is lost after a while.
It must be mentioned that the fat-burning effects of black pepper are observed primarily on animals. We are yet to see if black pepper is as equally effective.
Also, since chai tea comes heavily sweetened in the stores and cafés, make sure you avoid this high-level sugar entry, since it would cancel any positive effect of black pepper.
5. Perfect Substitution for Coffee
Since one of the key ingredients of chai tea is black tea, chai tea is rich with caffeine, so it can be used as a natural substitute for coffee.
And with the spices added to the mix, drinking a cup of chai tea in the morning is a pretty effective way of waking yourself up, and giving yourself some of that ever so needed extra energy to get you through the day.
It is hard to determine the exact level of caffeine concentration in chai tea since the number of black tea leaves differ from one cup/kind of chai tea to another.
It is generally considered that an average cup of chai tea contains about one-third of the caffeine concentration found in the average cup of coffee.
This is actually great for all of you need to stop drinking coffee (or severely reduce its intake).
You’ll be able to drink several cups of chai tea per day without feeling the side effects that you usually get when drinking too much coffee and you won’t need to worry about the overly big daily dosage of caffeine.
6. Pain-Relieving Properties
The pain-relieving features of chai tea have long since been noted.
The mix of spices usually found within it is a very effective way of dealing with various pains and aches.
They’re able to successfully alleviate even the more serious pains, such that of arthritis.
This is thanks to the anti-inflammatory features some of its spices have, and some we’ve already mentioned: clove and ginger.
Ginger is able to effectively deal with inflammations. In its root form, it can lessen the pain we feel while suffering from strong migraines, while common headaches pose even less of a problem.
Ginger can also enhance your blood flow, thus helping the body deal with pain more quickly and efficiently.
Clove, on the other hand, has been a mainstay in the homeopathic traditions worldwide.
It is widely used for dealing with a toothache, and you can use it to create a special gel which strong anesthetic features similar to those of benzocaine.
7. Prevention of Chronic Deceases
Chai tea is a polyphenol-rich beverage, which makes it very useful when it comes to destroying free radicals.
Free radicals are compounds which damage our cells, and they are caused by chemicals and pollutants.
Free radicals are connected with different kinds of cancer and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s deceases.
An average cup of chai tea contains a greater amount of polyphenols than it can be found in most fruits and vegetables.
This means that drinking chai tea will help you protect your cells and enhance your health in general.
Add to it the antioxidant nature of clove and cinnamon, and you get an additional defense against bacteria and viruses.
Bonus feature: antioxidants are able to somewhat stop one’s aging!
DOSAGE AND POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS
An old Chinese saying says: “when things reach an extreme, they can only go in the opposite direction”.
This essentially means that too much good can go bad.
Taking this into consideration, and all the beneficial properties of chai tea, we cannot help but ask: “What is the optimal daily dosage of chai tea?”
The answer is quite simple really: there isn’t any. It is still very unclear just how much chai tea a person should drink in order to feel all aforementioned the positive effects, nor do we know just how much chai tea is too much.
Even the research conducted so far mostly focuses on individual features; but there are no conclusive results when it comes to creating the ultimate chai tea recipe, with all the ingredients mixed together so all of their individual beneficial properties are increased to their maximum strength.
When it comes to side effects caused by drinking too much chai tea, one of the most obvious ones is the increased caffeine intake.
Excessive amounts of caffeine in one’s body can cause high blood pressure, anxiety, sleeping problems, and increased blood pressure.
Pregnant women should be especially careful in this case because they’d be in danger of miscarriage.
Luckily, chai tea has significantly less caffeine than coffee, so it’s highly unlikely that a person can suffer the consequences of excessive caffeine intake.
Still, better safe than sorry.
Another important thing to have in mind is ginger and its effects.
If you’re suffering from low blood pressure or low blood sugar, take care not to consume too much ginger while drinking chai tea.
Either severely reduce the amount of ginger in your chai tea, or how simply don’t include it in the spice mixture.
Finally, lactose-intolerant individuals should bear in mind that milk is one of the most common chai tea ingredients, so they should either order or make chai tea with water instead of milk.
HOW TO BREW CHAI TEA?
As we have already stated, chai tea can be prepared in so many different ways.
Different basic teas, different mixtures of spices, the sheer number of possible combinations are just astonishing!
And since different teas have different optimal cooking temperatures, it would be wise to ask your tea vendor for instructions when it comes to proper brewing.
Here are some pieces of advice you may find useful in case you want to test your skills and brew yourself a nice cup of chai tea.
- Depending on your taste, you can brew chai tea in water, milk, or the mixture of the two. Be careful not to let the milk boil, should you choose to brew your chai tea with milk, since that will distort the taste when done;
- If you’re brewing chai tea for the first time, use the instructions given by your vendor, or those written on the package. Introduce your own options as your taste and skill develop;
- If you’re brewing your tea in water, make sure that water is as pure as possible. Spring water would be an ideal choice, but if not available, use whatever you can. Don’t forget to keep your steeping vessel covered in order to avoid any potential heat loss;
- Don’t over steep your chai! If over steeped, chai tea becomes bitter, so try it out after the steeping period noted in the instructions, and if the taste suits you, stop steeping it. If not, steep it a bit longer;
- Black tea leaves and green tea leaves require different brewing temperatures. For black tea, you’ll need stronger temperatures and a bit more time for brewing. Chai tea with green tea as a basis should be steeped in lower temperatures.
Please bear all this in mind, and do not hesitate to ask your vendor any and all questions regarding the proper tea brewing, and enjoy your very first cup of chai tea!
If you need some recipes for making chai tea you can find them here, or you check out the link below.
Chai tea is a timeless beverage, a mixture of various elements working in nigh-perfect synergy, providing both amazing and unique taste and the multitude of health benefits.
Its popularity is more than deserved, and there is so much more it can offer.
The full extent of its medical application is yet to be researched, but they are, beyond any doubt, most effective.
But you don’t need to trust us – try it out for yourself, and see how it works.
We’re sure you’ll love it!