The Truth About Chai & 2 Ways to Drink Chai That Is Actually Healthy.

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Articles, Nutrition

Last week's interview with Nancy Appleton on “Suicide By Sugar” got a lot of people talking. One listener wrote in and asked me about chai tea.

Listener There'sa asks: “Is chai tea OK for me or my kids to be drinking? We order it nearly every time we go to Starbucks.”

So is Chai Tea healthy? Is it an alternative to calorie-laden frappucinos or other beverages you might find at the coffee shop? With comfortable and warming flavors of clover and cinnamon, it can't be all that bad, right?

I checked out a few of the recipes out there for Chai Tea. Cane sugar, honey and citric acid are three of the primary ingredients in the syrupy concentrate that is used to make the chai tea latte at Starbucks, which hammers you with 220-300 calories per drink.

Another version of chai, Oregan Chai Tea Concentrate, is probably the most popular version of chai used by most coffeeshops and restaurants, and although quite tasty, delivers a walloping 19 grams of sugar from “organic” evaporated cane juice. Don't let the “organic” part of that fool you. Organic sugar is just the pure, nutrient and fiber stripped extract from sugar cane. Sure, they may not have sprayed the sugar cane with herbicides and pesticides. But it's just pure sugar.

Now I've been drinking quite a bit of chai tea lately. I keep a pot on the stove, simmering and prepared to sip on as a low-calorie beverage while I'm chilling at home.

Wait a second…did I say, “low-calorie”?

Certainly I did.

So what are 2 ways you can drink chai tea that is actually healthy? I'll tell you. But make sure you carefully read the last couple paragraphs of this article, because there's a couple important things you should do.

1. Use the recipe I drink at home. This will make you about 5 cups worth, and it's caffeine free, so your kids can drink it too.

4 cups water. Boil it. Then bring to simmer and add all the ingredients below. The longer it sits (i.e. 30+ minutes), the better it tastes.

10 whole cloves

12 whole cardamom pods

12 whole black peppercorns

2 cinnamon sticks

4 slices fresh ginger (that's the root, just chop it up)

1 cup light coconut milk, rice milk or almond milk

1 tablespoons raw honey or 1 teaspoon stevia

2. If you're at a coffeeshop, just do this:

Order the loose leaf tea or little packets of tea that are chai flavored. Ask your server to leave about an inch at the top, and fill the rest up with soy milk, rice milk or light milk, and just a small amount of honey, then top with cinnamon.

Alright folks! There are your healthy recipes for chai tea.

Do you have some other drinks that you utilize at the coffeeshop or home that you think are healthy? Or maybe you just have a comment or question about healthy chai. Did you try this recipe and like it? Either way, just leave your comment below.

AND ONE MORE THING:
I'm pretty seriously considering the idea of actually sending you PHYSICAL recipes via postcard in the mail every week, along with weekly workouts. To cover my costs, something like this would probably be about $7 a month. If you'd be interested in something like this, also let me know in the comments section below. I'm also curious what you this I should name this weekly service.

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56 thoughts on “The Truth About Chai & 2 Ways to Drink Chai That Is Actually Healthy.

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  2. DAVID SOKOLOW says:

    any thoughts about using the oregon chai unsweetened chai concentrate with low calorie almond milk or coconut milk? thx

  3. Lida says:

    Mountain Rose Herbs has some fantastic loose leaf Chai blends – both with and without caffeine. My hands down favorite is the holy basil chai. The turmeric chai is quite tasty too. I buy the caffeine free blends and if I want caffeine just toss in a little loose leaf black or green tea when I am brewing.

  4. Zev says:

    I love traditional masala chai. But how do you make chai without tea? Isn’t chai black tea, hence spiced black tea or masala chai? I’m confused.

    1. Yes, so if you want to make it caffeine free, you simply make it with the herbs and spices, not the black tea.

    2. Ryanfreese says:

      Got a friend who is from India. She got me hooked on chia tea. Here’s how to make it. Fresh chia seed hand grounded in a bowl

      Fresh ginger root, scrape off the skin and thinly slice it

      Add few cloves Add honey or TB spoon of sugar per cup or stevia

      Add low fat milk. Sugar

      Add cinnamon Add few Black peppercorn

      Put it all in a boiling pan. Bring all the ingredients just before boiling point.

      Strain the the ingredients. Enjoy your tea.

  5. Heather says:

    How is this caffeine free? Chai is black tea which has the highest caffeine content?

    1. as i mention in blog post, only kid's version recipe is caffeine free

  6. Sam says:

    Names for your weekly/monthly pearls of wisdom:

    Greenfileds Food & Fitness cards

    At Home with Ben & Jess

  7. Gail Thatcher says:

    I always drink my chai tea 1/2 sweet & skim. Didn’t know you had coconut milk! How many calories in this am trying to lose weight don’t need the calories?

    1. Full fat coconut milk is great in small amounts. Just use 2-4oz.

  8. courtney says:

    coming from a barista at starbucks, you can order the oprah chai, which is our brewed chai tea, and add either a splash of coconut, soy, or nonfat milk (: it costs about $2 and is sugar free

    1. Suzie says:

      Add Almond Milk if you are concerned with calories , it is tasty .

    2. Bev Pace says:

      Is it caffeine free

      1. no, it is not, but less caffeine than coffee

    3. Mary Barber says:

      Thank you – can it be ordered on the mobile pickup or do you have to request in person

  9. kelly says:

    I am a chai tea addict. The calories have taken their toll. I need to stop immediately!! I am making the first recipe as I type this. Already smells good. I bought lighthouse fresh ginger. I “guestimated” (googled as well) on the ginger. what is the 4 slices of ginger equivalent to? Fingers crossed i didn’t mess it up.

    1. It's hard to say what it's equivalent to because every ginger product would be different. Fresh ginger is always best though, as in ginger root that looks like this: http://bit.ly/1fjvufT
      BUT the best part about making it yourself is you can make it to your perfect taste, so put as much or as little in as you like!

  10. Robin McDaniels says:

    Ben please senf me healthy alternatives I can purchase already made

    I don’t have access to a stove. I love chai tea and coffee but weaning myself away from sugar

    1. Look for an organic herbal chai tea in bags or leaves in your supermarket, and then just add milk, honey and cinnamon.

  11. Becky says:

    Wow, awesome recipe , thank you so much ! I put a glass jar in a pan of water , ( keep the burner on low /warm ) add almond milk , 1/2 teaspoon real butter , 1 tsp coconut oil , pinch of salt , 1/4 tsp vanilla plus other goodies ( depending on if I want coffee or cocoa ) put this on before heading to the shower, then when ready to leave , pour it all in my nutrition bullet ( coconut oil melted will froth like a latte) pour it in my container and head out the door ! Going to use your recipe next

    1. Sounds delicious Becky ;)

  12. Al says:

    At Starbucks, how about getting the Chai tea with coconut milk, and instructing them to leave it unsweetened. (Not sure if the Chai mix is already sweetened).

    They should offer the low-calorie version, which would be unsweetened with coconut milk and stevia. Cmon, It is 2015 everywhere should offer a healthy alternative.

    I stopped using splenda awhile ago, when I read about all the negative stuff, and I now use stevia exclusively. Target and other stores carry the best brand of stevia (Pure Via) in my humble opinion.

    1. Priscilla says:

      You can order chai tea and they will give you the tea bag in hot water. It is not sweetened or has any dairy. You can add milk and sweeten it to you liking. I have gotten it from there only a couple of times but nothing compares to using a good recipe and making it at home.

  13. Claudia says:

    Just a little correction: you refer to clover in your third paragraph; “flavored of clover and cinnamon.” Clover is quite different from clove. Hope your readers know this. Not a good typo to let slip!

    1. Absolutely! Thanks for the help.

  14. sarinord says:

    If I made the spiced water, could I store in the fridge to use anytime and just add heated almond milk prior to drinking? I'm looking for a way to make spiced chai at work or grab & take in the morning without the full effort of planning ahead to make before I head out the door. Or could I make the whole recipe (including the heated alt. milk) and store in fridge and just heat up when I want it? Thanks so much!

    1. Either way but it will likely keep longer if you leave the milk out until you are ready to drink it.

  15. Sarah says:

    Chai tea is a black tea, so technically there is some caffeine in the tea.

  16. Surya Bhattacharya says:

    The first recipe is the one we drink at home (more or less). It's a comfort drink at its finest. The BEST ones are the ones you get at the roadside stalls back home in India. The world should know :)

  17. Idapie says:

    Frikkin love chai masala! I add yerba mate most of the time and use honey..and oatmilk. Yumyum in the tumtum!
    Also LOVE postcards ! I send quite a few but receive lesser and lesser ! Emailin wil never be as fun as postcarding!

    1. I agree. No school like the old school!

  18. Kym says:

    Hello, i have just stumbled upon this lovely recipe, thank you! I might be missing something but need to ask, once the water is boiled, do you simmer for 30mins WITH the ingredients in it?

  19. anon says:

    Starbucks drinks are not only sugar filled and fattening, they also contain a ton of toxic and artificial ingredients. I did a lot of research to find what’s actually in their drinks. I’m so glad that people are making their own healthy versions, homemade Chai is simply amazing!
    @charlotte splenda is awful for you. Even table sugar is better than that toxic stuff. Try some stevia leaves instead.

  20. Lisa Magoulas says:

    I Love Chai Tea but never drink it because of the calories. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I'll have to get some cardamom pods and try it. Currently, I only have ground cardamom.

  21. Charlotte Freeman says:

    I have been drinking chai tea for 2 weeks and I started losing weight. I make it with 2 percent milk and splenda. It tastes yummy and satisfies my sweet tooth. I am not hungry after my treat and can't understand my unexpected weight loss. Has anyone else experienced this effect?

  22. Kimberly says:

    Mmm great recipe! Here's another suggestion for Chai lovers OR Chai newbs: http://bit.ly/ZRra9r
    You'll love it! I promise :)

  23. Pirates Chai says:

    Or, simply, get a Pirates Chai.

  24. Karen says:

    I have a question about the trick you mentioned for the coffee shop? will they do that at Starbucks? I always order Chai Latte, thinking it was better than the coffee drinks I usually ordered. Do they have the loose chai tea or packets. Just trying to figure out how to put it into practice there.

    1. Yes, it works at Starbucks and although they don't have loose leaf per se, they have chai tea packets – with far less sugar than the regular Chai…

  25. Sheba says:

    I don't see any actual tea in your recipe. What kind of tea do you use and how much?

  26. paty says:

    We brew our chai at home and our children start craving as soon as the aroma takes over the entire house. Our family recipe also has vanilla bean and a few drops of almond extract and I have been adding two generous tablespoons of flaxseed, which doesn't add any flavor but makes it thicker and healthier.

  27. BC says:

    I'm interested in the mailing.

    1. BC says:

      Opps, Meant to say. I'm interesting in the mailings.

      1. We\’ve been doing them since March now – here\’s where: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/bodytransform…

  28. JD says:

    I like the idea of a weekly postcard recipe. Call it just Postcard Notes.

  29. Jeff Hoening says:

    The only items on the menu at Starbucks without sugar are black coffee (my choice) and brewed tea. Interesting how these two items are also the items with the lowest price. Chai latte – run far, run fast.

  30. Susan says:

    A vote for mail recipes here! Call it? Benefits by Ben.

  31. Barb says:

    I would be interested in recipes in the mail

  32. Stacey Trogdon says:

    Hello Ben,

    Great interview last week on sugar. Beverages are the number one contributor to sugar intake in my clients. There aren’t many alternatives out there that don’t have artifical sweeeteners. Case in point with Oregon Chai, they have a sugar-free product, but with sucralose which I am never a fan of. The slightly sweet version for 1/2 cup has 7g grams of sugar better than the 19 anyway.

  33. Anonymous says:

    The first time I drank a Chai latte from Starbucks I was 2 sips into the drink when I started to calculate how long I would have to wait before I could come back to buy another! Serious red flag. Thank you for your recipe.

    1. Tricia says:

      I am sooo excited to have your recipe…i dearly love Chi….thank you for sharing with all of us ????

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