An Introduction to Chai Tea
What used to be one of the most exotic tea options on the planet has become one of the most ubiquitous, delicious, interesting, and exciting tea options that have gone completely mainstream over the last 20 years.
Originating in India, chai tea has one of the most unique flavor profiles and aromas you’re going to find – the perfect blend of spicy and sweet that people love to drink in the morning, and lunch, and even just before they head to bed.
Incredible all on its own but taken to another level with a drop of warm milk and maybe a pinch of honey or sugar, Chai tea can also be used in a variety of other beverages and concoctions. Chai lattes, for example, are incredibly popular these days (and have been for years) and likely aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
If you’d like to learn a little bit more about everything that chai tea has to offer you’ll want to check out the inside information that we highlight below.
Let’s get right into it!
Quick History of Chai Tea
Interestingly enough, the word “chai” actually comes from Mandarin Chinese and basically just means “tea”.
The history of how this word came to be used in the Hindu language is a little bit muddy and unclear, but at the end of the day the people of India decided to name this incredibly popular herbal tea beverage after that word – and today it’s almost impossible not to find the word on full display in coffee shops and cafés all over the planet.
Not a traditional tea (that it doesn’t come from a species of the tea plant first sourced in China thousands of years ago), chai is instead a 100% herbal tea that includes a whole host of different ingredients that shake up the flavor and aroma profile of these beverages.
In fact, the most common formulation of Chai tea is actually better described as masala chai – with other variations having different names and descriptions attached.
This specific formula usually includes five foundational spices that include cardamom, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves with a handful of other extras tossed in to shake things up a little bit. Some people like to add allspice, others add star anise, and others still mix and a handful of different spices and herbs like fennel and ginger to add a whole different level of complexity to the mix.
The earliest recorded history of Chai tea being enjoyed in India stretches back more than 5000 years, but the international appeal of chai tea really didn’t start to take root until the English colonized India and were turned on to the beverage themselves.
Previous to that China had an almost total monopoly on tea, with the British colonizing India almost entirely due to the fact that they saw an opportunity to muscle into the tea industry globally. These British individuals and organizations lean heavily on Indian farmers and tea masters to grow and cultivate new and exciting options but found themselves regularly going back to chai tea – and herbal tea – and sending it home with rave reviews.
Today chai tea is one of the most popular herbal tea options money can buy as well as a spice combination commonly used in coffee, espresso, and other beverages to add that unique flavor and aroma, too.
Highlighting the Main Components of Chai Tea
As we highlighted a little bit earlier, there are a handful of core ingredients that are going to make up most chai tea recipes with plenty of options to customize, tailor, and experiment with different ingredients if you’re interested in riffing on the traditional flavors chai has to offer.
Below we highlight some of the main components that make up popular chai tea recipes today.
The foundation of every chai tea is going to start off with a high-quality black tea, with many people choosing to take advantage of Darjeeling black tea because it offers a spicy “backbone” that the rest of the herbal tea mixture adds to and complements quite well.
On top of the black tea that you have chosen, you’ll want to add a handful of spices, many of them adding heat, spice, and warmth to the mix. Traditional recipes call for whole spices to be added, though if you’re purchasing chai tea in little bags the odds are pretty good you’re going to get crushed up or cracked spices that you’ll be steeping in your mug.
Some of the most popular spices to make their way into a chai tea recipe include, but definitely aren’t limited to:
- Black Pepper
- Fennel Seeds
- Star Anise
Some people find the flavor profile of chai tea to be a little bit heavier on the spicy side of things, little smoky, and a little woody or astringent.
These people are likely going to want to add a little bit of sweetness to balance things out which is why you want to consider adding some sugar or some honey to your chai tea if you find the original flavor profile to be a little too bold and a little too robust.
A Touch of Milk
On top of that, you can also add a splash of milk or cream to your chai tea to sort of mellow things out a little bit.
You’ll want to make sure that you have a very light touch when adding milk or cream to your cup, however, as it isn’t going to take much dairy to overwhelm the flavors of chai tea and almost completely mute them.
Breaking Down Some of the Health Benefits of Chai Tea
Chai tea didn’t become universally beloved only because of its incredible flavor profile but also because of the health benefits that it offers in every single cup. Below we touch on some of the biggest and most important health benefits that you’ll enjoy every time you drink a little bit of Chai tea.
Improves Your Immune System
Right out of the gate you’re going to see a major improvement to your immune system response and that’s due in large part to the polyphenols and antioxidants that are so common in black tea like Darjeeling, the most popular “backbone” ingredient for chai tea to begin with.
This immune system support is going to improve your resistance to illness and bacteria, to infection and disease, and even help you overcome issues that otherwise would have wreaked havoc on your immune system if left unprotected.
Strengthens Your Heart and Cardiovascular System
A number of research studies conducted throughout the world have conclusively proven that chai tea has a unique ability to flood your body with flavonoids (again from the black tea backbone) that helps you to improve your heart health, lower blood pressure levels, fight back against high cholesterol issues, and even help you with obesity and diabetes.
Minimizes Feelings of Nausea and Upset Stomach
One of the most popular ingredients in a chai tea concoction is ginger, a 100% all-natural root that’s going to help improve your health and wellness in a bunch of different ways – but especially when it comes to calling down your stomach, eliminating feelings of nausea, and even helping to wash away stomach cramps and stomach discomfort.
On top of that, the black pepper regularly included in chai tea is also going to work to improve your overall digestion. Not only will you be able to more efficiently digest foods and drinks but you’re also going to see higher bioavailability of important nutrients and biochemicals in the things you eat and drink. This is definitely going to support better health, too.
Speeds Up Weight Loss Progress
Almost every one of the common ingredients included in a chai tea recipe are going to increase your metabolic activity, helping you transform into a fat-melting furnace straightaway. You’re going to be able to burn fat on a 24/7 basis with this elevated metabolism – literally melting fat even while you sleep – but there are other benefits as well.
Your appetite is going to be suppressed when you drink chai tea on a regular basis. This will help you fight cravings and help with portion control, too.
Reduces Inflammation and Relieves Pain
Lastly, chai teas have pretty conclusively been proven to help with pain relief and to help reduce the overall amount of inflammation that you might be dealing with on a regular basis.
Ginger, clove, and black tea all have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that will make a difference immediately. Cloves also have an anesthetic kind of property to them that can work wonders on acute and chronic pain, especially issues like a toothache aware the clove compounds can be applied topically to the area with every step of chai tea that you take.
All things considered, there’s a lot to fall in love with when it comes to everything chai tea has to offer.
This unique combination of herbs and spices has a very interesting flavor and aroma, something warm and something inviting, but it also offers a whole host of health-boosting benefits that you won’t find anywhere else.
If you have any interest in black tea at all you want to make sure that you give chai tea a shot when you have an opportunity to do so!