Why We Love Chai Tea (and Why It's Great for High Caffeine Tea Blends!)
On a cold day, holding a hot cup of chai tea is one of those simple pleasures that's hard to beat. This original Indian brewed tea is full of flavor and can be a great source of energy too.
In this short guide, find out what chai tea contains (including the caffeine content in Zest Energy Tea), what benefits and side effects you can expect, and three tasty recipes that can rival Starbucks.
What is Chai Tea?
Chai tea is a flavored type of tea which contains black tea with a variety of spices. It's made using boiling water and milk, then typically sweetened.
Did you know that 'chai tea' literally means 'tea tea'? Chai translates as tea, and masala translates as spiced. So, now you know what a masala chai is all about!
The Origins of Chai
Chai originates in India, where herbs and spices have been used to brew ayurvedic drinks for centuries, but the chai we know today (black tea plus spice) goes back to the 19th century when tea plantations were first established in India.
Fast-forward to today, you can find chai tea as syrup concentrate, ready-made tea bags, and even cold-brewed in bottles. But that original taste of tea combined with spices remains a huge hit.
Different Types of Chai to Try
Just like there are many formats of chai tea now available, there are also different types of chai teas to try.
Popular Indian chai blends:
- Kashmiri chai - green tea leaves, baking soda and milk create an intense pink color,
- Adrak chai - milk tea with plenty of ginger and sugar,
- Tulsi chai - made with refreshing, healthy holy basil leaves (can be caffeine-free).
Then there are the westernized chai tea types. The standard spiced chai latte, the dirty chai (coffee and spiced tea together), and a range of herbal teas that don't contain caffeine at all.
Rooibos is a popular caffeine-free alternative to black tea chai, as the rich, malty and nutty taste goes great with chai spices like ginger, cardamom and cinnamon.
What’s in a Cup of Chai Tea?
The ingredients in chai tea vary, but the essence is always the same. You need a tea base, usually black tea, along with spices to add flavor.
Adding milk and sugar to taste is optional - they may taste great, but they aren't always so amazing for your health.
Any black tea type is great in chai, but if you're looking for a type of tea that's grown in India, then consider Assam or Darjeeling.
Both are used traditionally to make chai tea. Assam has a rich, bold and malty flavor, while Darjeeling tends to be a little more delicate - although it can still have nutty and spiced notes that work well for a chai beverage.
In our high energy chai tea, we use Flowery Orange Pekoe black tea, which is natural and non-GMO certified. It also provides those typical black tea properties you expect in a chai tea - rich, warming, and full of flavor.
The star ingredients in chai tea are the spices. Here are a few of the most common you could find in a chai tea:
- Star anise - produces a very sweet flavor. If you like licorice, then you'll love star anise.
- Black pepper - yes, the kind you sprinkle on savory dishes! A small amount of black pepper adds spice and warm heat.
- Ginger - fiery and warm ginger root is a staple ingredient for many fall recipes and drinks. It's one of those essential spice ingredients that chai tea contains.
- Cardamom - a zesty and earthy spice that works so well with ginger and cinnamon especially. Traditionally, cardamom pods are infused in chai teas.
- Cinnamon - everyone's favorite Christmas spice. Apple pie wouldn't be the same without it. Drinking cinnamon in chai adds warm, comforting vibes.
- Cloves - warm, sweet and very powerful! You only want a few cloves in a chai tea. Their flavor is comparable to nutmeg.
Although only a few grams (or milligrams) of spice end up infused in your tea, their intake can have some great benefits for your health. We'll cover those below.
Does Chai Tea Have Caffeine?
Yes, there is caffeine in chai tea. How much caffeine depends on the tea base used. For a typical black tea the amount of caffeine is quite low (roughly 47mg), especially compared to a cup of coffee (roughly 96mg ). The exception here is Zest High Energy Teas, which contain up to 150mg.
The amount of caffeine per cup you drink also depends on how long you brew it. A long steep in very hot water extracts the most caffeine the fastest.
One of the great properties of tea is the amino acid content, L-Theanine. Unlike coffee, teas have additional benefits from the way this amino acid interacts with caffeine. It slows down the onset of caffeine, prolongs the energy, smooths the crash, and even enhances calm and creative productivity.
Our Guide to High Caffeine Tea covers the caffeine/L-Theanine process and the scientific research behind it all.
Our Top 3 Ways to Make Chai
One of the reasons we love choosing chai as our daily cup of tea is that it's quite versatile. Here are three different ways to make a cup of brewed chai, all of which work amazingly with our Zest Tea Spicy Masala Chai blend.
A Simple Brew
- Add a pyramid chai tea sachet to a mug
- Fill the mug with boiling water
- Let it brew for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Remove the tea bag and enjoy!
The great thing about Zest Spicy Masala Chai is that it includes all the spices and black tea of a traditional chai (plus their health benefits) in a convenient format.
You can make a quick and tasty chai to-go this way. Don't forget that Zest Tea contains 150mg of caffeine to boost your energy too.
The Frothy Latte
Chai lattes are highly popular, especially at Starbucks during fall and winter. But you can actually make a chai latte easily at home, without all the sugary syrup crap and a million calories.
A traditional latte is made with espresso coffee and steamed milk. But we can replace the espresso with Spicy Masala Chai.
- Use the method above to brew a small amount of strong chai tea in your mug (the chai tea to milk proportions in a traditional latte are 1:4),
- Heat milk (dairy or lactose-free substitute) on the stove or in the microwave,
- Use an electric frother to make the milk frothy (or use a whisk),
- Pour the hot milk over the chai.
The steamed milk doesn't remove caffeine from the black tea, but there still may be less caffeine in a chai latte compared to a full mug of black chai. This is simply because there's a lot less chai and a lot more milk.
A good way to boost the caffeine content of your latte is to use Zest Tea, which naturally contains a high amount of caffeine anyway.
Traditional Chai Recipe
If you want your chai teas to be as authentic as possible, you can follow a more traditional method.
- Add whole spices, including star anise, cloves, cinnamon sticks, green cardamom pods, and fresh ginger spices to a saucepan,
- Dry toast the spices for a minute or so, until aromatic,
- Add black tea leaves, water and/or milk, then bring to a boil,
- Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes,
- Strain out the spice ingredients and leaves, then enjoy.
Chai Health Benefits
Chai tea can be a healthy drink for your mornings. Our chai blend contains cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
Adding milk is a great way to get your calcium dose for the day, but just go easy on it. Too much fat from dairy plus the sugar you add to chai could cancel out these potential health benefits.
- Reduce nausea - if you find that black tea can sometimes upset your stomach (that's usually due to the tannins) then chai tea could be the answer. Ginger in chai is highly effective for treating nausea and vomiting. One study found that it significantly reduces nausea in pregnant women with no adverse side effects.
- Aid digestion - UCLA researchers found that black tea is awesome for promoting a healthy gut, and several common chai tea spices are great for digestion too. Besides ginger, cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties and cloves could be used to treat stomach ulcers.
- Lower blood pressure - compared to drinking coffee, chai tea can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure rather than increasing it. L-Theanine in black tea reduces anxiety and attenuates high blood pressure in stressful situations. Furthermore, cinnamon in chai tea has been shown to reduce high blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease in general.
As for side effects, these mostly come from consuming too much caffeine. But as you know by now, even the teas with the highest caffeine per cup (AKA, Zest Tea) are still way below the daily recommended limit of 400mg!
Where does chai originate?
Chai simply means tea, which originates from China. The spiced, milk tea that we commonly refer to as chai (or masala chai) originates from India.
Are there different types of chai?
Yes, different combinations of spice ingredients create different chai types. Not all chai teas contain a caffeinated tea type for the body of the tea either.
What does chai tea do for your body?
It provides caffeine and L-Theanine through the black tea, plus flavor and unique health benefits through the spices.
What flavor is chai?
Chai is black tea plus spices, often sweetened with sugar, honey, or syrup - but not always. Our Spicy Masala Chai blend, for example, contains a warming black tea and comforting spices, with no sugar or artificial flavors needed.
Can you drink chai everyday?
Yes! There are many people that enjoy drinking all types of tea blends every day.
Is chai tea good for sleep?
The caffeine content in chai tea isn't good for sleep, however the L-Theanine can stimulate calm feelings and reduce anxiety. Furthermore, a hot milk-based beverage before bed is a great way to get cozy!
Does chai have caffeine?
Yes, chai contains caffeine from the black tea leaves. The spices and milk do not add additional caffeine. There's roughly 50 mg of caffeine in a cup of brewed black tea. However, in Zest's cup of chai tea, there's 150 mg of caffeine! Read our article about High Caffeine Teas to learn more.
What is chai vs chai latte?
Traditionally, chai is made by infusing tea and spices directly in milk. A chai latte is made by infusing the leaves and spices with water, then combining with frothy milk. Different prep, but still two great tasty chai teas!