There is something about the spices in chai tea that adds an extra level of cozy to any situation. Here is a favorite scenario: Saturday morning. Big flakes of snow slowly find their way to the ground, the world is quiet. Me, on the couch under a warm blanket with a big mug of steaming hot tea in my hands, watching as the landscape outside is getting prettier and prettier.
I’m not a huge a fan of snow and winter, but picturing that situation almost makes me look forward to it. And cold weather means it’s time for chai. I’m mostly a coffee drinker in the summer, but as soon as the temperature dips, I turn to tea and I particularly love my chai blend. It tastes and smells like Christmas, warms you when you need it most, and does wonderful things for your health (it even makes the trash smell good after you empty the used leaves and spices in it!).
You can of course go out and buy pre-mixed chai, but I prefer to blend it myself for a couple of reasons: You control what goes in it (both the ingredients and the quality of them), it is a lot less expensive, and it’s fun to make your own!
I actually started blending my own tea because most of the chai you buy has pepper in it, and while I know that that is great for your health, and like it on my food, it’s a flavor I can’t stand in tea (or wine for that matter).
I make my chai with organic black loose leaf tea, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and licorice root. Why these particular ingredients? Well, aside from the fact that this combination tastes great, both the tea and the spices are fantastic for both your body and mind:
Health Benefits of My Chai Tea
Studies have shown that black tea is anti-inflammatory and hydrating, promotes mental alertness, fights bacteria, strengthens the immune system, helps reduce tooth decay, lowers the risk of kidney stones, stroke and heart disease and balances cholesterol. Some studies also suggest that black tea can reduce the risk of certain cancers, Parkinson’s, and hardening of the arteries.
Cinnamon Cinnamomum verum
One of the oldest spices and known as a warming spice in Traditional Chinese Medicine, cinnamon is anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, an antioxidant, helps control blood sugar and cholesterol levels, prevents unwanted blood clotting, improves digestion, reduces fatigue, and boosts brain function.
Cardamom Elettaria cardamomum
One of my favorite spices! Detoxifying, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, antioxidant, helps digestion, lowers blood pressure, prevents blood clots, and last (but not least!) is an aphrodisiac. Some studies suggest that cardamom also can help with depression and some cancers.
Ginger Zingiber officinale
Not only delicious and warming, ginger has some amazing health benefits. It is a strong anti-inflammatory, helps with nausea and stomach aches, and boosts the immune system. Ginger can make you sweat, which is a great thing! Researchers in Germany have discovered that sweat contains a strong germ-fighting substance that helps fight infections. And lab studies at the University of Michigan showed that gingerols, the active phytonutrients in ginger, caused ovarian cancer cells to die.
Licorice Root Glycyrrhiza glabra
I have talked about licorice before, most recently in my licorice ice tea recipe post, but it bears repeating: Licorice is a strong anti-viral, a demulcent and expectorant, has anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties, supports the adrenal glands, and research has shown that it can help with hot flashes and night sweats during menopause.
Peppermint Mentha piperita
I usually have two variations of my chai blend in the cupboard at any given time: one without mint and one with. Sometimes, I want that extra little bit of brightness, and it adds a few more health benefits to the tea as well. Peppermint is said to support the gastrointestinal tract as well as the gallbladder and bile ducts, has antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiseptic properties and can help relieve headaches. And the scent when you open the bag of dried mint is just heavenly!
I like to put a big teaspoon of raw honey in my chai as well, both for its deliciousness and its health benefits: Raw honey is anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, and contains lots of health-boosting enzymes, minerals and vitamins.
As with all cooking, using high quality ingredients is important, and I use organic ingredients whenever possible. The spices come in various forms, and you can use whatever you like, but I prefer cinnamon chips, dried ginger root in pieces (or fresh – see note in recipe), “shredded” licorice root, and hulled cardamom. You can use any tea you like; I prefer Assam, it has a nice rich flavor without too much bitterness and blends really well with the spices, but I have also used English Breakfast and that works great too.
I get both the tea and the spices from Mountain Rose Herbs and the honey from a local apiary.
This also makes a great gift – just put the tea in a cute tin, include a small jar of honey, a tea strainer and a mug and you have a whole little health-promoting gift package.
Resources / Where To Buy:
Tea, teapot and Spices: Mountain Rose Herbs
Strainer with lid: ForLife
Pretty Washi Tea tins for gift giving: Teavana
Honey: Buy local if you can. If you prefer to shop online, I can recommend Honey Gardens Apiaries
For more resources, see the Recommended Food and Health Products page
For a caffeine-free version, see my Herbal Chai Tea post.