That cup of chai tea you’re enjoying? It’s probably similar to what your ancestors were sipping thousands of years ago.
Chai Tea can mean different things to different people, though. In India, where it originated — “chai” means “tea” in Hindi — it is more popular than coffee. In America, chai tea is loosely applied to drinks that tend to be sweeter and include cinnamon or cardamom. The creamy chai tea latte is increasingly popular, too.
Let’s take a closer look at chai tea and answer some common questions, including how much caffeine does chai tea have and some of the best ways to prepare it.
History of Chai Tea
A form of spicy chai tea — masala chai — may have been created thousands of years ago in Asia. When Britain controlled the Indian continent, its history of tea came with it.
Indian people adopted popular forms of British tea and put their own spin on it, adding native spices like ginger, cloves, and cardamom. Modern chai tea was born.
While there are many variations of chai tea, its base is typically black tea and usually Assam, which is a stronger variety. Chai also often uses whole milk, which brings out the richness in any spices used.
In addition to cardamom and cinnamon, chai tea can also integrate star anise, pepper, coriander, fennel, and nutmeg. Plain white sugar is used as a sweetener in America, but cane sugar that’s unrefined is popular elsewhere. [Note this article on all the different ways to sweeten tea]
How Much Caffeine Does Chai Tea Have?
There are several different factors that go into chai tea’s caffeine level. First, since the base is black tea, it will always contain caffeine unless it uses special decaffeinated ingredients. The caffeine in each cup also depends on the spices used.
In general, though, a regular cup of chai tea contains about 22 milligrams of caffeine, with some types exceeding 50 milligrams. That’s far below the amount of caffeine in a regular cup of coffee, about 120 milligrams.
Of course, the bigger the cup of chai tea the higher the amount of caffeine. Different brands/types of chai tea have variable caffeine levels. For example, the former Oprah Chai contained 25 milligrams of caffeine while Oregon Chai has 66 milligrams.
Chai tea’s caffeine levels in an 8-ounce cup are usually below or average compared to other teas of the same size.
For example, an 8 oz. up of white tea usually has 30-55 milligrams of caffeine, green tea has between 35-70 milligrams, oolong tea has between 50-75 milligrams and black tea has 60-90 milligrams.
Ways to Prepare Chai Tea
There are many different ways to brew a great-tasting cup of chai tea. Most vary depending on the spices used. One easy chai tea recipe involves crushing peppercorns, cloves, and cardamom and putting them in a saucepan with cinnamon sticks, milk, ginger, and 2 cups of water.
Then you remove the heat, add the chai tea bags, and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and enjoy!
Other recipes use variable spice combinations depending on personal taste. Chai tea comes in concentrate/power forms, leaves, and pre-packaged spice forms.
The Bottom Line
One of the oldest forms of tea around, chai tea packs a sizable flavor punch, with usually lower amounts of caffeine compared to other common teas. It’s easy to make at home, too, using some of your favorite spices for a personalized treat.
Scott is the founder of TeaMinded. He enjoys tasting and discovering teas from across the globe, with green teas and ceremonial matcha from Japan being among his favorites. He’s grateful to be immersed in the tea community, always learning and sharing along the journey.