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Is Chai Tea Healthy?

Chai tea, which is often made with cardamom.
Spices used in chai tea can include cardamom, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon and anise.
Traditional chai tea is made with honey, which is healthier than refined sugar.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2014
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The health benefits of chai tea are debatable, depending on precisely what sort of chai is being consumed, and how often. In India, many people drink chai daily, and some demonstrable health benefits have been observed. In other parts of the world, ingredient substitutions may detract from the potential health benefits of chai tea, although tea in general is good for the health, and chai tea certainly isn't bad for most people under most circumstances.

Traditional chai tea is made from a base of black tea mixed with spices like pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves. The tea is blended with milk and honey for service to create a sweet, creamy beverage. In some parts of the world, sugar is used instead of honey, and other people like to use dairy alternatives in their chai like soy or rice milk. Milk levels in chai tea also vary widely; some teas have a high milk concentration, while others have a higher proportion of tea.

Black tea, the base ingredient in chai tea, contains antioxidants which can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Antioxidants are also believed to beneficial to heart health, and some researchers suggest that they may help prevent cancer as well. Black tea also has a small amount of caffeine. For people who are caffeine sensitive, chai tea might not be a great choice; people with ulcers and heartburn may also want to stay away from chai.

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The various spices in chai have been used in traditional Asian medicine for centuries. Both Ayurveda and Chinese Traditional Medicine place a high value on spices in the treatment of a range of conditions. Ginger helps to ease sore throats, along with cold and flu symptoms, and it can also calm an upset stomach. Cloves have traditionally been used as an invigorating spice, and they may promote circulation as well. Cinnamon is a common stimulant, while cardamom eases indigestion and helps to calm the consumer. Pepper also promotes healthy digestion. For people who experience indigestion after Indian food, a cup of chai might be a great help.

The use of honey instead of sugar in this spiced tea can also be a good nutritional choice, although there is some debate about the health impact of refined sugar. Highly refined sugars like white sugar may not be beneficial to human health, while honey has antioxidants, can ease sore throats, and can fight bacterial infection in some cases. The wide variety of milk choices in chai tea can also make it a healthy choice, as people with lactose intolerance can enjoy the taste with a non-dairy milk.

While not as good for you as a plate of brown rice and steamed vegetables might be, chai tea can certainly be beneficial. The combination of spices in the tea can promote general health and ease specific complaints, and people who make their own chai tea can control the ingredients for the best health effect. Processed chai drinks like chai lattes may not be as beneficial as traditional chai tea, since these drinks often contain minimal chai and higher amounts of white sugar. The spices may also not be as potent because coffee shops tend to order chai mix in large batches rather mixing it fresh on a daily basis.

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Discuss this Article

anon346338
Post 48

I love the flavors of Bigelow Vanilla Chai tea which I prepare with milk and stevia/honey combo. However, it's best for me to avoid its stimulating effects in the evening hours as I am unable to sleep if I drink it, let's say, after 3 p.m. I'm in Alaska where it is perpetual light during summer months, so combined with the chai tea, sleep is non-existent.

anon336505
Post 47

Being a coal mining contractor on the road all the time, I will easily drink four to six cups of flat white coffee (common way to serve coffee in Australia) with two sugars a day. When I was in a motel room, they had some Chai tea and I fell in love with it. I now have two to three cups of straight black Chai tea with no honey or sugar, with the bag left in the cup while drinking it so it becomes real strong, and have found that I will sleep much better at night when I'm away for work, As a bonus, my blood pressure has dropped so my Doc is happy with the outcome. I still have my four to six cups of coffee a day. I have found the T2 brand is the best one available in a bag. So I give Chai tea my two thumbs up!

anon330820
Post 46

I find that even 'strong' pre-packaged Chai teas like Twinings extra-spice lack the depth and subtle heat of "traditional" Indian masala tea. I have tried four brands of the pre-packaged stuff and several Starbucks/Second Cup variations and none of them come close to the "traditional" flavor you get when you mix the spices yourself.

I have been on the hunt for the right flavor after discovering it in India (I am from Canada and when I drank 'masala' tea in India I had no idea it was supposed to be the same as what we call 'chai' because they taste so different). After two years of trying to find the flavor on store shelves (it might be out there but I haven't found it), the recipe I now use has 100g freshly ground peppercorns, 80g ginger (fresh ginger dried and ground into a powder), 40g ground cinnamon, 25g freshly ground whole cloves, half a nutmeg freshly ground, 35g freshly ground cardamom seeds.

I grind all the ingredients separately in a Magic Bullet and then mix together well, except I buy pre-ground cinnamon. If using sticks, I think it should be increased to 60g.

To make, I boil roughly one cup water, add 1/2 tsp of the Chai spice mixture and 1.5 tsp loose Assam tea and some sweetener. I boil 30 seconds. Then I add 1 cup whole milk which I've heated for two minutes in the microwave, reduce heat to medium, and let boil gently for 5-10 minutes, mixing occasionally. Then I strain it into a large mug and enjoy!

With this spice mix you can experiment with adding more or less, or adding ground fenugreek, fennel seeds, or anise, etc. If you are more used to the North American "chai" then I would recommend increasing the cinnamon and cardamom and decreasing the pepper and ginger, but I haven't tried this.

For us Canadians, all of the ingredients needed can be bought at Bulk Barn (I'm not sure about an American equivalent), including 100g of Assam tea, for just over $15. The chai mix will definitely last for two to three months, and the tea leaves should last about 1 month (1-2 cups daily). (100g of loose assam tea is only $2.69 at Bulk Barn)

anon328308
Post 43

The Bigelow brand of Vanilla Chai is the best. It's the traditional Indian Chai. I add 1/2 to 1tsp honey and about 1/4 cup of soy or coconut milk. It's so much better for you than the powder you get from coffee shops and the stores, which are loaded with preservatives, dairy, sugar, and usually flavorings, not spices.

The not large amount of caffeine calms my migraines, and I prefer a tea to a bunch of pills every day. I find it also soothes my chest and stomach pains, a chronic ailment doctors are yet to pinpoint.

anon307155
Post 42

For those of you who are addicted to using sugar or honey, give Stevia a try. I find the best one after much brand testing is Natvia (I am not affiliated with them nor do I get any money for mentioning them).

Give it a try. It has a great taste with zero guilt from the sugar.

anon262449
Post 39

Rooibos chai tea is very good for the health, and the one by yogi teas is my favorite.

anon262219
Post 38

Can the tea unlock the chakras?

anon246104
Post 37

I returned from India pining for chai. The best and closest to Indian chai we found was in the Indian grocery shops, a loose leaf tea and a tea bag called Wagh Bakri. The tea bags I take to work and the loose leaf I boil up on the stove with a little brown sugar or honey and milk. Best ever.

anon240613
Post 36

The best chai is homemade. I've made it myself for about a year and it's just delicious. I've had chai lattes and they aren't nearly the same quality or taste.

KCupsStore
Post 33

This is a really good article about Chai Tea. I think there are many people out there that need more education about the benefits of tea, especially Chai Tea. Well, just need more education, period.

anon169622
Post 32

I have been fascinated with the chai tea and chai latte of coffee beans and tea leaf. They are, by far, the best chai I have tasted. -AQET6177

anon156917
Post 30

i have found this amazing herbal chai tea in a tub container -- clear enough to see what's in it.

It's totally obvious natural herbs. I use a tablespoon of the herb in a coffee filter and tie it like a little bag and drop in boiling water. when it's very hot and dark, I add agave and home pressed coconut milk. it's the ultimate chai tea ever.

anon155273
Post 29

The very best chai (and I have tried several) is the Stash brand. They have a double spice, white, regular and I think a green. If you like spicy their Holiday spice is excellent also.Very flavorful. I just add a packet of truvia and some almond milk or creamer. Wonderful! going to try it iced this summer.

anon154740
Post 28

well I would like to say that I started to drink it because someone said I could lose weight drinking it, but what I got was so much more to me. I suffer from bad allergies and i have not taken a pill yet. after drinking it I can breathe through my nose again and I haven't done that in like 10 years.

anon149050
Post 27

I drink unsweetened Masala Chai Tea that I found through the internet. I am trying to cut back on my sugar intake and most of the pre-made Chai teas have tons of sugar. This allows me to enjoy my chai with a stevia sweetner. It is so good and I feel it is much better that drinking coffee in the morning.

anon122357
Post 26

I work in a coffee shop and was introduced to Spice Chai Tea Latte in the powder form and drink one almost every day for the past five years. Haven't had hardly any problems with colds or flu or my arthritis since drinking this absolute drink. Helps with depression too so if I'm addicted so be it (smiling).

anon108982
Post 25

I'm addicted to morning tea as madanfreya said in the last comment. But i won't think I'm addicted because i can start my day without tea.

The main thing is there to discuss about is should we drink tea or not? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this and how much quantity is safe to take daily? Why has this become so popular? Is there any alternative to this?

Please, if anybody else has an answer to this, please do write. Finally, I would like to say that I fully agree with comment no. 23 that we have to have a cup of tea to start our day! --F.Sameer

madanfreya
Post 23

Chai tea does help you to feel energetic, but having it regularly in the morning will cause addiction. you have to have a cup of chai to start your day.

anon108915
Post 22

I recently found that black tea has "tannin-a plant pol-phenol" which interfere with the absorption of iron (non-heme means iron from plant sources) if taken during meals.

Just a friendly suggestion: drink tea between meals, not during meals. Adding lemon to black tea does neutralizes the effect of tannin on the absorption of iron.

Hope this information is useful for "chai-lovers". --FM

anon107411
Post 20

It's not really that hard or expensive to make chai from scratch. most of the spices are available in any grocery store, the exception being cardamom which can be found in Indian or Asian groceries or online.

It might cost a few dollars to buy everything but it will last a while. I make a pot of fresh chai every morning and I use three cinnamon sticks, a tablespoon of black pepper, a tablespoon of whole clove, 8 to 10 cardamon pods and a three inch piece of fresh ginger cut into slices.

Bring this to a boil in six cups of water and pour over six black tea bags, and let steep for 10 minutes and you're in business.

anon82257
Post 19

I'm several weeks pregnant and chai lattes are one of the few things that actually helps with my morning sickness! Even though it may not be as potent, I get a Starbucks chai latte every morning I can and it helps immensely!

anon79462
Post 18

Just tried my first cup of Twinings Chai tea on my 54th birthday. It was delicious.

anon79204
Post 17

Arkadia Chai Tea is by far the best. A little pricey but definitely worth it for the taste and health benefits!

anon78950
Post 16

I actually like the powders! I got "Drink Me Chai" Chai Latte powder and I love it. I think it's much more full of flavour than tea bags I've tried. I love Chai tea. Healthy or not it's so much better than regular tea.

And yes obviously the traditional, freshly prepared versions are much better, but not everyone can access or afford the ingredients to make it, so i feel the powders/tea bags etc make a suitable and convenient substitute, especially for us students!

amypollick
Post 15

@Anon76308: Try grocery stores that specialize in Indian foods. I'm in the US and my husband found a Lipton brand chai tea he said was very good. We found it at an Indian grocery. Hope this helps.

anon76308
Post 14

Twinnings Chai Tea is very tasty. I have not drank nor seen any other kind of Chai Tea. How does one go about finding such traditional teas and herbs, in the south of England. Any suggestions.

anon75338
Post 13

Hemoglobin has to do with your iron count - not your immunities. Drinking a tea will not lower your immunities.

I do agree that simply taking the tea bag and boiling it tastes much better than those "latte" powders. I accidently bought the chai latte mix instead of tea bags...ugh - disappointment.

anon70931
Post 12

Traditionally Chai tea Is called Masala, or Masala chai- translated this means spicy tea.

I love a traditional chai- not the powdered stuff you often get at cafes.

anon70061
Post 11

I once heard that Chai is pronounced "Chee" as opposed to "Ch'I". any comments welcome.

anon69683
Post 10

Being a Pakistani, I have made long term observations and what I conclude is that tea can make one fresh and energetic for a few hours and then one feels tired and exhausted.

It basically corresponds to the additional need of caffeine to revitalize myself again. The cycle can prove handier for a massive part of a day but getting used to it means that you are not going to feel well without it.

anon69564
Post 9

I've read recipes to make chai tea that use sweetened condensed milk, which sound yummy but must be terribly fattening. The best chai tea I had was iced chai in a bookstore/cafe.

anon69383
Post 7

To add a little value, it should be said that the Hindi word for "tea" is in fact "chai". So, the phrase, "chai tea" is actually the same as saying, "tea tea" or "chai chai", if you're Indian.

Cheers, A.J

anon69372
Post 6

I heard that chai can combine with hemoglobin and thus reduces overall immunity of the human body. Can anybody give an opinion about this.

anon69371
Post 5

There is no exaggeration to say that tea is good for the human body as promoter in energy, as caffeine is there for that.

anon64085
Post 4

Chai Tea is made with black tea and spices and and has many beneficial properties. Authentic Indian Chai if made correctly is wonderful. I am not a fan of the powdered and liquid versions on the market which are full of sugar and additives. You can't call this Chai!

anon64083
Post 3

Chai consists of different spices such as Cardamoms - Considered a key digestive and is used to treat stomach disorders

Cinnamon - soothes colds, nervous tension, blood sugar control and stimulates digestion.

Cloves: Antiseptic properties

Star Anise: Aids digestion.

Chai mamma

anon51381
Post 2

Yes, I always turn to tea to calm down. I think it is in my mind also. Growing up, my mother always drank chamomile to relax and I now find myself doing the same.

cabernet
Post 1

I think Tea is generally healthy regardless of what kind it is, as long has it doesn't have any other added preservatives or artificial ingredients. Must be the herbs in it. I find it soothes me, especially when I'm sick. It has a calming effect for me. Its all in the mind in my opinion.

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