Besides the fact that properly made chai tastes like a cozy winter day and feels like a hug from the inside, real chai tea (not the sugar-laden kind that comes from that coffee chain that rhymes with “Car-Trucks”) is actually a powerhouse full of health benefits.
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Before we dive into that, here’s a fun little fact for you. Did you know that the word “chai” actually just means tea? True story. In many countries all across the globe, tea is chai (also, cha, ta, te, and thé.) Chai as we know it in the US would be considered masala chai in India (masala meaning spices). The chai I am talking about in this article is masala chai.
Here are some of the remarkable health benefits that you get from drinking chai!
Hot chai can help you feel better when you have a cold or flu
Warming spices like ginger and cardamom, common chai ingredients, are a natural decongestant, and can help open up the sinuses. Make sure you inhale the steam coming off your hot tea, which will also help open the sinuses. Most chai is made with black tea, which can help settle a cough.
Drink chai to help improve digestion
Aromatic herbs and spices have a soothing effect on the stomach and digestive system. When you drink chai tea after a heavy meal, it can help relieve feelings of fullness, gas, and bloating.
Feeling blue? Chai can lift your mood
The fragrance of the spices in chai tea comes from the naturally occurring essential oils in the spices. This is the original aromatherapy. The aromatic molecules that you smell have a direct route to the part of the brain that controls our emotions. The aroma of spices is naturally uplifting, stimulating, and energizing. Just smelling your tea can help you feel better! And when you drink it, the energizing spices boost your circulation and feelings of being reenergized. It’s like re-lighting the pilot light inside your spirit.
The spices in chai tea can promote relief of inflammation
The inflammation-relieving properties of ginger have been well researched. (Read more about ginger here.) Cinnamon and clove have both been used for natural pain relief, and pepper is believed to increase the effectiveness of other spices like turmeric, ginger, and other spices. If you’re feeling achy and sore from a hard workout, or if you have chronic inflammation from arthritis or other issue, try incorporating chai tea into your daily routine and see how you feel after 30 days of regular use.
After reading this, you have probably gathered that real chai isn’t made from a syrup or a concentrate. Real chai is a combination of spices and black tea. At Loose Leaf, we make several kinds of chai based on our favorite combo of spices, but you can also make chai at home from scratch. The varieties and flavor combinations are endless. Whether you use our Go Chai or make your own, the method of how you prepare it is what makes all the difference.
Version 1: Loose Leaf Signature Chai
In a 2 quart saucepan, add 4 cups (32 oz.) of purified water and 4 tablespoons Loose Leaf chai (Go Chai, Chocomaya Chai, Naked Chai, Detox Chai)
Cover the saucepan and gently simmer the chai in the water over low to medium heat for around 5 minutes. Add 2 cups milk of choice and 4 teaspoons of honey or maple syrup, or to taste. Stir well to dissolve the sweetener. Remove from the heat, and pour the chai through a strainer into 4 12 oz. mugs. Enjoy as is or garnish with whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg.
Version 2: DIY Chai
You will need some whole spices and 4 teaspoons of Loose Leaf black tea like Assam, Ceylon, or China Black, and some spices. (You can make a caffeine-free version by substituting Rooibos for the black tea.)
Choose any or all of these spices:
- Fresh ginger root
- Whole cinnamon sticks
- Cardamom pods
- Whole star anise pods
- Fennel seeds
- Fresh orange peels
- Whole cloves
- Whole peppercorns
Fill a 2 quart saucepan with 32 oz. purified water and 2 cups milk of choice. Add in your fave spices, whatever looks and smells good to you. Make sure you crush whole spices before using them, so they release their full flavor and aroma. You can use them all, or just the ones that you have on hand. The only rule is that you need to like it. Cover the pan and simmer the spices for 5 minutes or so over low heat. Remove the pan from the burner, and add in 4 teaspoons of black tea leaves. Cover the pan again and let the tea leaves steep in the mixture for about 3 minutes. Stir in whatever sweetener you like, about 4 teaspoons or whatever floats your boat and makes you happy. Stir well. Pour the chai tea through a strainer into your favorite mugs.
Chai tweaks and tips
- Make your chai creamier and richer by using less water and more milk
- Add some turmeric (1/2 teaspoon per cup) to increase the anti-inflammatory benefits
- Try enjoying your chai without sweetener. It will be more like a tea and less like a dessert, but it will still be mega-satisfying
- Use unsweetened chai as a base for your fall and winter soups, like pumpkin, butternut squash, or sweet potato
- Make your chai and chill it overnight in the fridge, and enjoy it over ice any time of the year
- Create a hot chai cocktail for grownups by adding a splash of Kahlua, rum, or whiskey
How do YOU like your chai? Comment below!