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How healthy is Chai?

Chai is a preparation of tea synonymous with India, made using Black Tea which is simmered with sweetened milk. Spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, saffron, mint, ginger, fennel seeds and lemongrass are often added to this preparation.


The health benefits of Chai can be attributed to the array of spices / herbs that are added to it. Some of these spices have been used in medicinal and beauty treatments for centuries. So aside from lending strong aromas to the decoction, spices also pass on their therapeutic properties, making the beverage flavourful and healthy.


In order to understand the health benefits associated with masala Chai, the properties of each individual ingredient should be explored. Chai is primarily made from Black Tea leaves, milk, a sweetener (most often sugar), and a mixture of spices. Each one of these lends a unique characteristics to prepared cup of Chai.


Cardamom: Cardamom is widely used in the treatment of digestive issues such as intestinal spasms, liver and gallbladder illnesses, constipation, and even loss of appetite. This popular Indian spice is also used in the treatment of common respiratory problems such as coughs, colds, bronchitis and sore throats.


Cinnamon: This aromatic spice is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties besides being a potent antioxidant. Cinnamon recommended to diabetics, with some research focussing on its role in reducing blood sugar levels.


Ginger: As per traditional medicine, Ginger is a remedy for numerous gastrointestinal problems. Its health benefits have been proved by scientific research as well, with studies providing conclusive evidence of its therapeutic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.


Nutmeg: Nutmeg is credited with having curative and aphrodisiac properties, besides its aromatic qualities. Certain active compounds are known for their therapeutic uses, making it an anti-fungal agent, an anti-depressant, and aphrodisiac and and anti-flatulent.

Fennel: Fennels lends an earthy taste to tea, imparting health benefits such relieving stomach upsets, colic, indigestion, constipation, respiratory and menstrual disorders and anemia.

  • Caffeine in Tea

  • The caffeine content of tea is highly dependent on a number of factors, such as the type of tea (green, black, white, etc.), the plant cultivar, the season during which the leaves are plucked and the steeping time.

     

    Caffeine content based on the type of tea:

     

    • Black Tea contains the highest amount of caffeine among all the varieties of tea available. It contains 40-100 milligrams of caffeine per cup.

    • Green Tea, known for its health benefits and role in promoting wellness, contains 8-30 milligrams of caffeine per cup, far less than the content in Black Tea.

    • A cup of White Tea contains 6-20 milligrams of caffeine. White Tea is perceived to be a more premium variety of tea, made from the youngest leaves and buds of the Camellia Sinensis plant.

    • A cup of Oolong Tea contains 9-50 milligrams of caffeine. Oolong Tea is known for its role in promoting beauty and weight-loss.

    • India’s favourite Masala Chai contains approximately  20-50 milligrams of caffeine per cup.

     

    The above numbers are based on an assumption that 100 ml of water is used to brew the tea.

     

    Tea v/s Coffee

     

    Coffee has a reputation for its high caffeine content. A cup of coffee contains anywhere between 40-170 milligrams of caffeine. Interestingly, however, dry tea leaves contain a higher amount of caffeine than fresh coffee beans. The caffeine content is lowered during the processing of the leaves. While steeping the tea leaves, a partial amount of the caffeine content is transferred to the infusion, whereas in the case of coffee, the content of caffeine extracted during brewing is more.
    Overall, the caffeine content in tea and coffee and both dependent on many other factors, such as the varieties, quantity used, steeping/brewing time, etc.

     

    Caffeine in Green Tea

    Even though all the varieties of tea available are obtained from the Camellia Sinensis plant, the caffeine content in each one differs due to the difference in processing techniques. Factors such as the plant terroir, steeping time and number of leaves used also play a role in influencing the caffeine content.
    The content of caffeine in Green Tea is lower than that in Black Tea and far less than the caffeine in coffee. Optimum levels of caffeine can have positive effects, boosting the levels of brain activity.

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