Chai is a spicy mixture of tea and spices served in many parts of the world, especially India. It is usually mixed with hot milk and sometimes sweetened with a bit of honey. Currently gaining popularity in the United States, chai tea represents a healthy and tasty beverage alternative to the traditional cup of coffee.
Although often made with black tea, chai is a healthier drink when made with green tea. The leaves used for green tea are unfermented (merely withered and steamed) as opposed to the further processed and fully fermented leaves used for black tea.
Health Benefits of Green Tea
Green tea is loaded with antioxidants, nutritional substances which scavenge for free radicals that can cause damage to the cells in the body. Research has shown that green tea may be helpful in reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering cholesterol, protecting against cancer (particularly of the digestive system), and helping control blood sugar levels.
There is no one recipe for chai – it varies from household to household even in countries where it is served daily. However the following are spices frequently found in chai tea. They each add to the zesty taste while contributing health benefits as well.
- Cardamom – Used for centuries in treating indigestion, cardamom is part of the ginger family and thus provides beneficial effects on the digestive system. It contains antioxidants as well as assorted minerals and vitamins.
- Cinnamon – Quickly gaining recognition as a beneficial herb, cinnamon has one of the highest antioxidant levels of any spice. It has been shown to demonstrate positive effects on blood sugar levels as well as cholesterol levels. It also enhances the beneficial effects of other herbs.
- Cloves – Primarily known for their local analgesic effects in the dental realm, cloves have other beneficial properties as well. They provide an anti-inflammatory effect and are thought to have some effect in preventing blood clots.
- Ginger – Long used for its soothing effect on the digestive system, ginger has also been shown to inhibit an enzyme that causes inflammation. It contains antioxidants and is thought to boost the immune system as well as stimulate the circulatory system.
- Pepper – Perhaps an unlikely ingredient in a beverage, black pepper adds a pleasant kick to some chai teas. It actually has many healthful properties, including promoting optimal digestion in the stomach and diminishing gas production in the intestinal tract. It also has antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
Chai tea contains an assortment of beneficial nutrients in both the tea and in the spices. So for those who want to improve their nutritional intake, a morning cup of steamy chai tea can satisfy the taste buds as well as provide a real nutritional punch!