that you should know... Test Your Knowledge!
- Chai is the Indian word for "tea".
"Chai" is simply the Indian word for tea. So the term "chai tea" is technically redundant ("tea tea"). But savvy marketers thought it helpful to tell clueless Americans that chai is in fact, a kind of tea, so the term "chai tea" was born. Anyway, what is it? Chai is a mixture of black tea with spices, specifically cardamom, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, nutmeg, star anise, ginger and/or fennel. This is the traditional Indian preparation known properly as "masala chai." It is first brewed as a strong tea, then mixed with equal parts milk. Some commercial chai brands will call their chai "authentic," which is just another claim that it is the "real deal," and not overly adulterated, or Americanized. Another term you may sometimes see here is "spiced chai." Again, this term is redundant. Because all chai is "spiced chai"... if it weren't, it wouldn't be chai!
- The sweetened American version is actually a "chai latte."
Finally, in America we have a sweetened, creamier variation known as a "chai latte." It may be useful to note that chai itself, in its original Indian version, is not exceptionally sweet. It's sweetness is traditionally derived only from the milk sugars, which is diluted 50% with tea/water. Here at Chai Direct we have created separate categories for authentic masala chai and the "American-ized" chai latte-style drink.
- Chai is also the Hebrew word (transliteration) for "Life."
Coincidence? Perhaps... But consider that Sanskit, the language of ancient India, is considered by linguists to be the "mother tongue." There could well be a connection in the actual sound, now buried in antiquity.
- Chai tea is good for you!
There is also a growing body of research showing that tea polyphenols are linked to increased attention and focus (Theanine), cardiovascular health, protection against Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, and even may have the potential to alter cancer genetics. And the spices in Chai Tea have various health benefits as well, having been used for thousands of years. For more details and links to some studies on both various teas and spices found in chai, check out: Chai Tea Health Benefits.
- The caffeine in chai acts differently than in coffee.
A typical cup of chai tea prepared as directed contains approximately 40mg of caffeine (4 oz of black tea) compared to roughly 120mg in an average cup of coffee. However, that's not the only difference. It turns out that the caffeine within tea interacts with the tannin in tea, which actually has a calming effect on the nervous system, and this causes the caffeine to be absorbed much more slowly. As a result, chai avoids causing the caffeine "shock" common to coffee, and instead induces a calm, relaxed-yet-mentally-focused state found to be characteristic of the alpha brain wave patterns. And because chai doesn't have the same kind of caffeine impact as coffee, you can enjoy extra cups without the buildup of caffeine addiction and nasty headache withdrawl that comes when you "can't get your fix." Many people can even have chai in the evening without disturbing sleep. (If you are HIGHLY sensitive to caffeine, however, Rooibos Chai as it is naturally caffeine free, or go for a decaf version.) So chai is mentally clarifying and energizing, providing a calm, subtle "pick me up" without the nervousness or "jitters" that accompany the coffee buzz, and its inevitable crash. And unlike standard tea, which is typically weak and watery, chai offers substantially more body and flavor -- so for many it's an ideal coffee substitute! For more about chai vs. coffee challenge, see Using Chai as a Coffee Substitute.
- Chai is available with green tea, white tea, Rooibos (or red tea), matcha and even yerba mate!
Green tea has less caffeine than black tea, and larger amounts of EGCg, a powerful anti-oxidant. It was first assumed that green tea had higher health benefits, but new research is finding that the theaflavins and thearubigens of black tea actually carry similar health benefits. Rooibos is a caffeine-free variety of tea sought for its additional health benefits. It is widely believed that it is the synergistic combination of tea and spices that make chai such a beneficial and healthy drink. Yerba mate is another tea variation sought for it's additional health benefits, but it also carries a stronger, slightly bitter taste.
- Commercial chai is available as a concentrate, powder mix, or in bulk loose leaf tea form.
Which is best? That depends on you. Concentrates are brewed under ideal conditions and pressures, so they often tend to taste a bit stronger, bolder and/or spicier. Dry mixes can be even more convenient, however. Bulk tea and bags must be brewed and sweetener added, so the process takes more time, but many still prefer this.
- Many chai products are Certified Fair Trade and Organic.
This means the products are grown, harvested and purchased according to the rules of the Fair Trade organizations. We want you to help you make an informed decision about all aspects of the products you buy. For more information, please see Fair Trade Chai. Additionally, organic tea and spices are grown without the use of chemical pesticides, fertilizers or sludge, and non-GMO. For more information, see USDA Organic Chai.
- Chai tea is better for the environment.
Water is one of our most precious resources, and becoming more so each day. It is estimated that over 1100 cups of water are required to produce a single cup of coffee. On the other hand, only about 1/10th of that amount of water is needed to produce a cup of tea.
- Did we mention that Chai Direct has one of the largest exclusive selections of chai products anywhere?
Chai Direct carries more than 100 chai products from 20 different chai brewers, which gives you a huge taste variety to explore!