Fall grows nearer each passing day, and we’re looking forward to our favorite seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice and chai.
Chai tea is known for its warm spices, but it has some incredible health benefits as well! Grab a quick cuppa, and we’ll dive right in.
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What Is Chai Tea?
Before it was a delicious autumn latte, chai tea was a cultural drink enjoyed by many Indian citizens as they traveled from place to place. However, chai tea has changed very little throughout the years.
Traditional chai tea is based on Indian black teas such as Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling, and Nilgiri. These types of teas come from the dried and processed leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant (as do all teas, exempting herbal tea), which grows natively in both China and India.
As tea leaves oxidize, elements such as antioxidants and caffeine rise to the surface of the blend. Harvest season and growing conditions also affect tea type and subtype. Chai tea has a very strong antioxidant and caffeine content.
Chai tea is very much a folk recipe, with each household and merchant using slightly different blends of spices to achieve their signature flavor. However, many chai recipes include black tea leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, ground ginger root, cloves, and black peppercorns. Some spice recipes may even include star anise, coriander, allspice, and nutmeg.
Traditional chai is not served straight but is actually topped with milk and sweetener. You can drink chai without the sweetener if you wish, but the sweetener brings out the flavor of the spices in a way that warms you all the way down to your toes.
What’s the Difference Between Masala Chai and Chai Tea?
You may have heard of masala chai and chai tea and wondered what the difference was. Technically, there is no real difference between the two besides semantics. “Chai” translates to “tea,” and masala translates to “spiced.” Masala chai is, therefore, “spiced tea,” and chai tea is, well… “tea tea.”
Although these are technically two different names for the same beverage, they can represent different cultural preparations of the same drink.
Masala chai is synonymous with traditional Indian preparation, which tends to be more robust and creamy. Meanwhile, chai tea indicates a Western preparation of spiced tea, which is often lighter in flavor due to the syrups and spice mixes that coffee shops use.
7 Health Benefits of Chai Tea
If you like chai tea, we have great news. Chai is actually full of benefits designed to help keep you strong and healthy. Keep reading for a full chai lowdown.
Great Source of Antioxidants
Chai tea uses a black tea base, which is well-known for its antioxidant properties. Some of the antioxidants found in black tea include polyphenols, catechins, and flavonoids. But what do antioxidants do?
Antioxidants help round up and neutralize free radicals, which are unstable atoms. Free radicals can cause serious health issues and potentially lead to long-term illness if they’re left alone.
Your body naturally makes antioxidants, but unfortunately, your natural antioxidants just aren’t enough. This is why it’s so helpful to take in extra antioxidants through your diet.
You can get antioxidants from green tea, but you’ll get far more by drinking strong black tea. Since chai blends are just spiced black tea, you’re getting the full amount of black tea antioxidants. Healthy levels of antioxidants can also help support your immune system.
Supports Heart Health
It’s never too early to start taking care of your heart and lowering your risk of potential heart issues. Luckily, you can do that while sipping on a cup of chai.
Black tea has been shown to help maintain healthy LDL cholesterol levels. This specific type of cholesterol is often associated with negative long-term outcomes and heart disease, so it’s important to do what you can to keep it down.
Black tea can also help maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Blood pressure issues can have serious side effects if left untreated. Unfortunately, there are quite a few factors that can trigger a blood pressure imbalance.
For instance, stress is linked to high blood pressure. When stress is so prevalent today, it’s important to do what you can to help protect heart health. In this case, that includes fixing yourself a chai latte may be a great way to help support a healthy heart.
Promotes Smooth Digestion
Chai tea contains ginger, which is a well-known home remedy for acid reflux. In fact, one cup of chai contains enough ginger to help relieve some of the discomfort that comes along with heartburn.
Another integral ingredient in chai tea is black pepper. Some animal studies show that black tea may help support your natural digestive enzymes, which in turn can help you keep your digestive system healthy.
Common chai spices such as cardamom and cloves can also have this effect. If you have an upset stomach or bloating, you might want to try some chai to help relieve some of the effects.
Supports Healthy Metabolism
A healthy metabolism converts what you eat and drink into energy, so it’s vital for your overall well-being. However, sometimes our metabolism can get out of whack.
Oftentimes, individuals with metabolic issues have higher or lower blood sugars than normal.
Chai tea can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. In fact, chai tea doubles up on this benefit. For one, black tea can help boost your metabolism and support your body’s natural blood sugar regulation. Chai is built on black tea, but it has another trick up its sleeve.
Chai also contains cinnamon and ginger, which are also known to support your body’s natural metabolism. It takes quite a bit of cinnamon and ginger to achieve this effect, but you can try making your own chai with a few extra grams of ginger and cinnamon to get the most out of this yummy drink.
Provides a Boost of Energy
If you have a hard time waking up in the morning, try pouring yourself a cup of masala chai. Not only will its deliciousness instantly wake you up, but black tea also contains caffeine.
Caffeine is a tried-and-true part of many people’s wake-up routines. Some people get their daily amount of caffeine from coffee, but others get it from tea.
The average eight oz cup of black tea contains 47 mg of caffeine, which equates to about half of a cup of brewed coffee. This means that you can drink about eight cups of black tea a day before you hit your caffeine limit.
Black tea also contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which helps promote relaxation and focus. Sometimes caffeine can have unpleasant side effects like jitters, stress, tension, and restlessness. Because the caffeine in tea is absorbed differently by our bodies than the caffeine in coffee, L-theanine can help lessen those jittery effects and help give you a more sustained energy boost.
If you would rather go caffeine-free, try this rooibos coconut chai. This herbal tea blend tastes very similar to traditional chai but is blissfully free from caffeine.
Supports Brain Power
If you’ve hit your mid-afternoon slump, try drinking some chai and see how you feel. Black tea has quite a few tricks up its sleeve to give you some extra brainpower.
We mentioned caffeine and L-theanine before, but these elements do more than just give you energy – they can improve your focus as well. In particular, they can help sharpen your attention and increase your alertness. L-theanine can also help lower the risk of age-related mental decline.
Chai has something that regular black tea doesn’t have: cinnamon. The mere smell of cinnamon has been proven to increase alertness and improve memory. Next time you have a big test or presentation, try chai!
Has a Delicious Flavor
This may not be a physical health benefit, but we thought we’d give chai tea some credit for being extra delicious, anyway. Good taste might not contribute to your physical wellbeing, but we maintain that a delicious cuppa can bring emotional benefits.
There’s something pleasant about sitting with a tasty cup of tea and taking a few moments to refresh, regroup, and reconnect with yourself, especially during the colder seasons.
How to Enjoy Chai Tea
If you’re excited to give chai tea a try, here are some of our favorite chai tea recipes.
Hot Masala Chai Tea
To make a traditional masala chai requires something a little different than the typical tea-making process. The first thing you need to do is locate your chai tea of choice or round up your own mix of spices and some black tea.
If you prefer to use premixed chai, check out our collection of chai teas. We have traditional spiced chai and dozens of fun flavored chai as well. Explore a little, and come back to this recipe once you’ve picked your chai.
Once you’ve got your tea ready, you have a few options. You can steep your tea in boiling water, steep it in hot milk, or choose a mixture of the two.
If you steep your tea in milk, then you don’t have any extra steps to take once the tea is cool enough to drink. If you steep it in water, then you’ll need to make your tea extra strong and pour in some hot milk. You can make it stronger by using less water and adding more tea bags or leaves.
The type of milk you use doesn’t matter too much, so feel free to substitute it for your favorite dairy-free milk alternative if you want. The only word of advice that we’ll give is that the higher the fat content in your milk, the creamier the chai.
Once your tea is cool enough to drink, you can kick back and enjoy! You can even try letting your tea cool completely and then pouring it over ice for a delicious spiced iced chai.
Chai Tea Latte
A chai latte tastes similar to masala chai, but you’ll make it a bit differently. With a chai latte, you should make about ¼ cup of concentrated chai tea.
While the tea is steeping, heat up some milk on the stove and steam it using a milk frother or a whisk. Once your milk is frothed and your tea is finished, just add the steamed milk to your tea, and voila!
Chai Ice Cream
I scream, you scream, everybody screams for chai ice cream! Since chai tea is often drunk with milk, we felt like chai ice cream was the next logical step.
Our ice cream recipe is a little more complicated than traditional masala chai, so you can click here for the full recipe. We love this chai ice cream because it combines the buttery sweetness of chai with creamy ice cream. It’s exactly like tasting masala chai in ice cream form!
Chai tea is a classic spiced tea that is steeped in Indian culture. Besides being delicious, it also has several health benefits. This sweet drink just got even sweeter!
If you like chai, we have some more tea recommendations for you. Just take our quiz, and we’ll deliver our handpicked suggestions once a month. Why not chai it?
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About Sips by: We’re a female-founded and led startup that makes discovering tea fun, personalized, and affordable. The Sips by Box is the only multi-brand, personalized tea subscription box. Each month, we match tea drinkers across the U.S. with delicious teas from over 150 global tea brands that we’re sure they’ll love. Based out of Austin, Texas, we are adept at savoring a hot mug even when it’s seasonally inappropriate.