Chai Tea 101 – A Guide from Chai Expert

Tea is the oldest drink in the world, first recorded in China in 59BC as a medicinal drink. According to a Chinese legend, tea leaves had even been found some time around 2737BC in the country. Nowadays, tea is consumed worldwide and has countless variants, one of them being chai tea.


Chai tea comes from India and is often called Masala Chai. In India, masala means spices, which makes it a fitting name for spice-induced tea. The drink is rooted in Ayurvedic tradition.

The word chai itself literally means tea, but Indian refers to chai as tea added with milk. The real chai tea contains only milk, while the spiced version is masala chai. Chai tea has now become one the most delicious and popular milk tea in the world.

What It Contains

Chai tea is served in almost every region in India with its own variations. For example: in Kashmir, the people prefer green tea to black tea for chai tea with the addition of almonds, while people in Bhopal add a pinch of salt to the tea.

Even though chai tea goes through a lot of modification: it basically contains four ingredients: tea, milk, spices, and sweetener.

  • Tea. Black tea is the most common base for chai tea. Assam and Darjeeling become the top choices among other teas for their solid and full-bodied flavor.
  • Milk. The addition of milk to chai tea brings out the richness of the spices. Whole milk is the best choice, but skimmed milk is often used to reduce the calorie amount.
  • Spices. Chai tea may include many spices, but cardamom seeds are the most common, along with cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. The less common spices used for chai tea include pepper, nutmeg, fennel, and coriander.
  • Sweetener. Chai tea contains a lot of sugar than regular tea to brings out the spices’ flavor. Plain white sugar is the most common sweetener used for it.

Typical Questions Around Chai Tea

Are chai tea lattes healthy?

Chai tea latte becomes one of the most known healthy drinks globally, thanks to  Starbucks for putting it on their menu. Despite it bears the word “latte,” chai tea latte does not contain the slightest amount of coffee in it. It replaces coffee with black tea for the caffeine source, added with spices, and layered with frothed milk on the top. 

Speaking about chai tea latte’s healthiness, it will vary depending on how much sweetener is added to the drink, what kind of milk is used, and the serving size.

For example, Starbucks’ Classic Chai Latte in grande size contains 103 calories with skimmed milk and 131 calories with whole milk. In venti size, the calories go up to 271 with skimmed milk and 355 with whole milk.

Chai tea typically contains a lot of sugar to balance the strong flavor of the spices, ranging from 20g to 50g, depending on the cup size. 

As for the caffeine, the strength depends on how strong the tea is brewed since most teas such as black or green or white coffee have 12mg to 61mg caffeine for 8oz serving. Chai tea latte is a good substitute for coffee, for the caffeine amount is still less than one espresso shot. Replacing coffee with black tea is also suitable for health.

But if you are looking for a healthier alternative, go for regular chai tea with only about 100 calories per serving, with less milk and less sweetener put in it.

Does chai tea have caffeine?

Yes, because chai tea uses black tea as one of the main ingredients, which contains caffeine. The amount of caffeine depends on how strong you brew the tea, but the caffeine in a serving of chai tea is usually lower than a shot of espresso.

Drinking chai tea when pregnant

Not all teas are safe for pregnant women, but chai tea is. But the intake should be limited to avoid consuming excessive amounts of caffeine. With the right amount of intake, women may benefit from caffeine during pregnancy. Other than chai tea, caffeinated teas such as black, oolong, white, and green tea are also considered safe for pregnancy. But avoid herbal teas made from flowers, spices, herbs, and dried fruits. Although they do not contain caffeine, herbal teas may contain other ingredients considered not safe for pregnancy.

Drinking chai tea when breastfeeding

Chai tea is also safe to drink when you breastfeed since the natural spices will not harm the baby. But it is best to consult with your doctor first to ensure that your baby is not allergic to the ingredients used in chai tea.

Chai tea for weight loss

Chai tea may promote fat loss and prevent you from gaining weight in some ways. Cow milk or soy milk in chai tea is a good source of protein that makes you feel full and reduces hunger, preventing you from overeating.

But when you are drinking chai tea for weight loss, avoid adding too much sugar to counter all the health benefits above. Choosing the correct type of milk also helps to reduce your calorie intake from a cup of chai tea. Skimmed milk contains fewer calories than whole milk, makes it a perfect addition to your chai tea.

Chai tea recipes

Chai tea basically comprised of four main ingredients: tea, spices, milk, and sweetener. The whole process is to boil all the ingredients, wait for it to simmer, and let it strain. However, there are different suggestions, such as how long to simmer the tea and when is the right time to put the milk.

But if you want to make your own chai tea with little to no experience, all you need is to prepare those four ingredients and follow this easy recipe below. It takes only 20 minutes to make for 4 cups.


  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 4 bags of black tea
  • 8 teaspoons of sugar (less or more, according to how sweet you want the tea to be)
  • Spices
    • 11-inch of fresh ginger, grated
    • 8 cloves
    • 8 cardamom seeds
    • 2 cinnamon sticks
    • 4 black peppercorns

How to Make It

  1. Put all the spices (except for ginger)  in a mortar, crush them together to produce a more robust flavor to the tea.
  2. Heat a sufficient amount of water in the saucepan with the grated ginger and crushed spices, let simmer for 15 minutes. (Tip: Grating the ginger makes the flavor stronger, if you wish for a mild flavor, slice the ginger instead)
  3. Remove the heat once the water is boiled, add the tea bags, and steep for another 10 minutes. 
  4. Strain the tea into each cup, adds sugar until you get the perfect taste.
Simmering Tea
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