Chai Tea: Are There Health Benefits?

Green tea receives a lot of praise for its high antioxidant content, but it isn’t the only hot beverage that offers a major boost to physical and mental health. Not only does chai tea provide many of the benefits associated with green tea, it has a bold flavor and enticing aroma that few people can resist.

Chai has a long history as a beloved beverage. The name literally means "tea," from the Chinese word "cha." But chai wasn’t always associated with black tea, as it is today. The earliest versions of chai were made entirely of spices, and didn’t include any tea at all until British colonization of India.

Indian lore suggests that chai originated in a royal court thousands of years ago. Accounts of this court's location vary from India to Thailand. Regardless of its original location, chai has always been extremely versatile, with preferred spices and preparation methods varying dramatically from one region to the next.

Today, chai tea can be found everywhere from authentic Indian restaurants to large-scale chain coffee shops.

Nutrition Information

Chai tea is a great source of antioxidants such as catechins and theaflavins. These fight oxidative stress and can play a role in preventing cancer and other conditions.

Depending on how it's prepared, chai tea may also include:

A cup of unsweetened chai tea brewed with water contains: 

  • 0 calories
  • 0 grams of protein
  • 0 grams of fat
  • 0 grams of carbohydrates
  • 0 grams of fiber
  • 0 grams of sugar

Potential Health Benefits of Chai Tea

Depending on which spices are used and how it’s brewed, chai tea can provide a variety of noteworthy health benefits. It's often low in calories, making it a healthy substitute for sugary beverages such as hot cocoa or apple cider.

Other potential benefits include:

Lower blood pressure. The cinnamon in chai tea may prevent hypertension, especially in people with diabetes. Research also indicates that people who drink several cups of black tea every day lower their blood pressure by several points.

Better brain power. The black tea and spices found in chai can provide significant benefits to both short-term and long-term cognitive function. Research reveals that the mere smell of cinnamon can improve both attention and memory. Black tea contains caffeine and the amino acid L-theanine, both of which are linked to improved focus.

Lower blood sugar. Black tea helps to regulate glucose levels and may prevent sudden spikes in blood sugar. It is especially valuable for controlling glucose levels after drinking sugary beverages.

Continued

Potential Risks of Chai Tea

Packaged chai tea mixes or pre-made drinks often include high amounts of added sugar and dairy. To maximize the health benefits of chai tea, check nutrition labels carefully. If possible, make it from home.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 13, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

University of Chicago Press: "Tea—A Global History."

Nutrition: "Effect of Short-Term Administration of Cinnamon on Blood Pressure in Patients With Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes."

PLOS ONE: "The Effect of Black Tea on Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials."

World's Healthiest Foods: "Cinnamon, Ground."

Nutritional Neuroscience: "The Combination of L-Theanine and Caffeine Improves Cognitive Performance and Increases Subjective Alertness."

Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Black Tea Consumption Improves Postprandial Glycemic Control in Normal and Pre-Diabetic Subjects: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Crossover Study."

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination

Get Diet and Fitness Tips In Your Inbox

Eat better and exercise smarter. Sign up for the Food & Fitness newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the WebMD Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of WebMD subscriptions at any time.