When you enter a home in India, you are often welcomed with a hot cup of chai tea. Sweet, spicy, and oh so creamy, this cozy beverage is enjoyed worldwide for its versatile spirit and heady flavor. Yet, beyond its taste, did you know that chai hosts a wealth of nutritional benefits such as better heart health, digestion, and cognition? Read on to learn why you should make this drink a staple in your routine.
Where does Chai come from?
Thousands of years ago, chai was a “healing spiced beverage” used in Ayurvedic medicine, one of the world’s oldest holistic healing practices. Originating in the royal courts, masala chai was a natural health tonic that lacked tea leaves. Locals believed that the ingredients were not only friendly to the palate, but also contained a wealth of nutritional benefits: mood-boosting cardamom, pain-relieving clove, and anti-inflammatory cinnamon, to name a few.
Upon British arrival in the 1800s, black tea was introduced to chai recipes along with milk, tea leaves, and sweeteners. The Indian Tea Association advertised its health benefits, with the 1900s marking a massive increase in chai production and consumption (1).
India is the world’s second-largest producer and consumer of tea. Farmers handpick tea leaves for higher quality production. They are crushed and rolled to release the inner oils and juices, enhancing the flavor. Then, oxidation and fermentation occurs. Finally, locals bake the leaves in the sun to dry them out (2).
The ingredients in chai tea provide significant benefits for your overall health. Cinnamon can help lower blood pressure and blood sugar. Ginger is a natural nausea-reducer, while black pepper promotes gut health. Caffeine and L-theanine are focus-boosters that are both found in black tea (3).
Have you ever noticed a sense of comfort after drinking chai? That is thanks to nutmeg, a natural antidepressant that works with feel-good hormones in your body like serotonin and dopamine. Chai tea can also give your immune system an extra level of protection through polyphenols, plant compounds that contain high antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. These have been shown to improve digestion, heart health, and prevent inflammation (4).
According to the Mayo Clinic, black coffee has 2 times the caffeine that black tea boasts (5). You can rest easy knowing you’ll get the benefits of caffeine without staying up all night!
It’s worthwhile to note that not all cups of chai are created equal–distinct varieties have different amounts of these ingredients. Additionally, be wary of added sugar and creamer, as these can be detrimental to your health when consumed often.
Ready to chai it?
Supplementing a balanced diet with chai tea can help your body’s natural defense against infection and disease. There are many different ways to integrate the drink into your lifestyle, ranging from frozen lattes to overnight oats.
Buying Indian-grown chai is a way to support economies like the ones Pockets of Promise provides aid to. The next time you take a sip of this comforting drink, think of the rich culture and history behind it, and the people whose lifestyle relies on its consumption.
Disclaimer: The heath topics discussed on this website are intended for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on this site.
Keywords: chai tea, masala chai, indian tea, india