Chai is the sweet, spicy, milky tea drink that is a staple of Indian afternoons. This tea has made its way to the West and can be found in many traditional coffee houses as well as Indian restaurants. This drink is good tasting, but it is also good for you. As we dissect a cup of chai, we can fully realize its health benefits.
What’s in it? First of all, we have the tea itself. Black tea is different from green tea only in its method of preservation after picking. For green tea, the tea leaves are steamed and dried. For black tea, the leaves are fermented and dried. These processes slightly alter the health benefits of the tea leaves themselves and greatly alter the flavor. Black tea has a stronger flavor and slightly more caffeine. Green tea is milder tasting with higher antioxidant effect. Antioxidants are substances that counter the effects of stress on the body. Antioxidants are being studied for their potential to prevent life threatening diseases and slow the aging process. Both black and green teas have healthful action in the body. Chai typically has less than half the caffeine of a similar amount of coffee. You may make chai with no tea leaves at all in it. In India and in packaged products you will, most likely, find it caffeinated. The other spices found in chai are believed to lessen any negative effects of caffeine.
In addition to the tea leaves, chai is made with a number of spices that will each have action on the body. The following are some spices typically found in chai and their related actions. Since this tea is typically taken during the afternoon to balance the day’s digestive fire all the spices have an effect on the digestive system. As most of these are heating, it can be a beneficial drink for Vata and Kapha. but Pitta nature people will want to limit their intake or include cooling herbs, such as fennel or anise, in their chai formula.
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