Chai Tea: Origin, Properties, and Preparation - Step To Health
 

Chai Tea: Origin, Properties, and Preparation

Chai tea is an Indian drink with some health benefits. We'll tell you why it can benefit you and how to drink it.
Chai Tea: Origin, Properties, and Preparation

Last update: 02 December, 2021

Chai tea originated in India and consists of a mixture of tea, herbs, and spices. Actually, its name is redundant, as the word chai translates as ‘tea’ in Hindi. However, it’s a popular term around the world, although it’s also known as masala chai, which means ‘tea with spices’.

To prepare it you need to combine some spices with black tea and milk. It can vary according to the spices that are used, but, in general, has some basic ingredients. It always acquires a sweet and fragrant taste.

It’s thought to have been invented over 2500 years ago to take advantage of its healing properties. Since then, it has been part of traditional Chinese medicine and Indian holistic or Ayurvedic medicine.

Origin and consumption of chai tea

Lutgedorf wrote in his article that the origin of chai tea is millennia old. Its original recipe was inspired by a recipe called masala, which in Hindi translates as spice. It is said that a king created it more than 2500 years ago to restore the balance between mind, body and spirit.

At that time, chai tea only included the spices to relieve some minor ailments. A few centuries later, when the British brought black tea leaves to India, they decided to add them to chai tea. Over time, they were also prepared with green tea leaves and oolong tea.

The commercial rise of chai tea began in the 20th century in India. Today it’s sold in almost every coffee shop in the world.

The standard tea is prepared with black tea, hot water, and the addition of spices, such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and others. However, warm milk or milk mixed with water can also be added.

Other spices include cardamom, black pepper, fennel, nutmeg, and star anise. It can also be combined with chocolate. Pepper and ginger give it a spicy sensation, while cinnamon and cloves give it an earthy feel.

Some black peppercorns.
Black pepper is among the spice ingredients used in this tea.

Possible benefits of chai tea

Tea, like water, is the most economical beverage consumed by humans. Drinking tea has been considered a health-promoting habit since ancient times. Today, medical research is building a scientific basis for this belief.

It’s a source of antioxidants

Chai tea may contain a good amount of antioxidants that neutralize free radicals, thanks to the presence of polyphenols in its ingredients. One article reports that green tea contains catechins and theaflavins with antioxidant activity.

Cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves are also rich in these substances. Some authors mention the presence of cinnamic acid and cinnamate in cinnamon bark.

Can improve digestion

Drinking chai tea to relieve digestion problems may be a good decision. For example, ginger helps to make nausea go away, especially during pregnancy. Other spices can also improve the digestive process.

Cardamom, cloves and cinnamon have antibacterial properties, so they can prevent severe gastrointestinal infections and help the digestive system work better.

Another study involving animals concluded that using five times more black pepper than what is normally consumed can increase digestive enzymes. But these amounts aren’t present in chai tea and more human studies are needed.

Promotes heart health

There’s evidence that ingredients in chai tea help improve heart health. One of them is cinnamon. Studies in adults have found that 1.3 to 6 grams per day reduces total cholesterol by 26%, LDL, or bad cholesterol, by 27%, and triglycerides by 30%.

However, like pepper, these cinnamon values are above what chai tea contains. However, one review claims that 120 milligrams of cinnamon per day may be sufficient.

Black tea has been tested in healthy, overweight, and obese people to understand its effect on cardiovascular risk factors. A decrease in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol was found, while the good cholesterol or HDL cholesterol wasn’t modified.

A group of experts observed that drinking 4 or more cups of black tea a day can reduce blood pressure levels. Drinking 3 cups could reduce the risk of heart disease by 11%.

Black tea contains the polyphenols catechins by 6% and thearubigins by 12 to 18%. These active components are involved in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and general health promotion.

Can control blood sugar levels

Some spices and black tea added to chai tea can help to improve blood sugar levels. One group of researchers reports that black tea is good for diabetic patients because it is an unsweetened beverage that improves insulin response.

Another study also found that black tea improved postprandial blood sugar levels in healthy, prediabetic adults. On the other hand, there are several reports that recognize the use of cinnamon to improve blood sugar in type 2 diabetics.

One group of doctors concluded that cinnamon is able to decrease insulin resistance and fasting blood sugar by 10 to 29%. Others found that cinnamon reduced fasting blood sugar by 10% in poorly controlled type 2 diabetics.

Another spice studied as beneficial for type 2 diabetes is ginger. They found that oral administration of 2 grams of ginger to type 2 diabetic patients improved fasting blood sugar.

To achieve the effects demonstrated in these studies, 1 to 6 grams of ginger and cinnamon should be ingested. Chai tea bags or any coffee drink provides less than required.

It could act as an anti-inflammatory

Chai tea contains some elements with anti-inflammatory activity. In an experimental study on black tea they found a marked anti-inflammatory effect due to the presence of flavonoids. This may help relieve muscle and chronic pain.

Ginger has also been associated with the power to reduce inflammation. One study showed that essential oil and resin components of ginger participate in metabolic pathways that are activated during chronic inflammation.

On the other hand, cinnamon also helps to decrease chronic inflammation and prevent pain. The most potent anti-inflammatory components of cinnamon are cinnamaldehyde and methoxy cinnamaldehyde.

Helps prevent weight gain

A controlled study found that drinking 3 cups of black tea per day can inhibit weight gain and reduce abdominal fat gain. However, it seems that this effect only works in the short term.

If you’re drinking chai tea you should be careful not to use sugar of any kind. Some varieties add certain amounts that would nullify the effect described in the study.

Options for preparing chai tea

There are several options for preparing chai tea:

  • Masala chai. This drink is the traditional tea that includes black tea, ginger, cloves and cinnamon. You can add a little warm milk and honey as a sweetener. If you like it spicy, then instead of milk you add warm water.
  • Rooibos chai: This is a varied blend of spices that accompanies chai. For example, it contains ginger, coriander, pepper, cardamom and cinnamon. To obtain a caffeine-free chai tea, black tea is replaced by rooibos, a red South African infusion.
  • Solstice spice: This type of chai tea includes apple and orange slices. The spices are cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and pink pepper. It’s spicy and fruity.
Orange for chai tea.
The addition of orange to chai tea boosts the antioxidant contribution, as vitamin C is added.

Homemade chai tea recipe

Traditional chai tea is very simple to prepare at home. Of course, you must have fresh spices to grind them. It’s preferable to use whole milk because it gives more flavor.

Ingredients

  • Cinnamon
  • Whole cloves
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 black tea bag
  • 1/2 cup warm milk
  • Honey, artificial sweetener or sugar
  • 1 pinch of grated or powdered ginger

Preparation

  1. Crush the cloves
  2. In a saucepan place all the spices and heat
  3. When the water boils, reduce the heat of the pot and leave it for 10 minutes to simmer
  4. Reduce the heat again and add the black tea bag and the milk
  5. Cover the pot and leave it for 5 minutes
  6. Strain before serving and sweeten to your preference
  7. Serve lukewarm

Chai tea is an interesting version of a spice blend whose bioactive components have been studied and considered healthy. It can help you lose weight, keep your heart healthy, and control type 2 diabetes. It’s an ancient, aromatic, and spicy tea, and if you know how to choose the ingredients correctly, the healthier it will be.

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