With its rich flavor and creamy consistency, chai latte is a perfect choice for cold winter days. This flavored tea beverage is made from milk and various spices like cinnamon, ginger and cloves. It's lower in caffeine than most types of coffee, but it may contain large amounts of sugar.
The caffeine content of chai latte depends on the ingredients used and the amount consumed. A regular cup provides about 22 milligrams of caffeine, but some brands can exceed 50 milligrams.
What Is Chai Latte?
Also known as masala tea, chai latte is popular worldwide for its fragrant aroma. The Hindi word "chai" means "tea," notes Washington State University. "Latte," on the other hand, refers to a hot beverage made from warm milk and strong coffee.
This warm, spicy drink is made with brewed black tea, milk and spices or herbs, such as cinnamon, fennel and even black pepper. Most recipes also call for ginger and cardamom. The chai latte available in coffee houses is typically lighter and less sweet than traditional masala chai, which originates in India.
In general, it's recommended to use strong black tea, so the spices don't overpower it. Depending on the recipe, you may also add honey, nutmeg, allspice, licorice root or even chili. Almond, coconut or oat milk can be used instead of cow's milk to make vegan chai latte. Some people prefer to swap sugar or honey with sweetened condensed milk.
Does Chai Latte Contain Caffeine?
As mentioned earlier, black tea is the main ingredient in this milky beverage. According to the Mayo Clinic, one cup of brewed black tea (8 ounces) provides 25 to 48 milligrams of caffeine. The same amount of green tea, by comparison, has 25 to 29 grams of this stimulant. The caffeine content of coffee is about 95 to 165 milligrams.
Chai latte may contain more or less caffeine, depending on the recipe and the type of tea. A regular cup of chai latte (8 fluid ounces) from Starbucks, for instance, has 50 milligrams of caffeine, 21 grams of sugar and 120 calories.
The "tall" version (12 fluid ounces) boasts 70 milligrams of caffeine, 32 grams of sugar and 190 calories. There are 120 milligrams of caffeine, 53 grams of sugar and 310 calories in the "Venti" version (20 fluid ounces). With its rich flavor and creamy consistency, chai latte is a perfect choice for cold winter days. Chai tea caffeine in Starbucks' Starbucks Iced Chai Tea Latte is even higher in caffeine and calories. Other chai latte recipes have fewer than 22 milligrams of caffeine per cup, as reported by the USDA.
Black tea is the only source of caffeine in this drink. Therefore, if you're sensitive to stimulants, consider using other types of tea. The University of Washington, for example, features a chai latte recipe made with unsweetened instant tea. Or try our diet-friendly Chai Latte recipe and use decaf black tea, which has only 2 to 5 milligrams of caffeine per cup.
Caffeine — A Double-Edged Sword
Most coffee houses add a lot of sugar, honey or syrup to masala tea for extra flavor. Some also use toppings, which further increase its calorie count. Store-bought concentrates are often loaded with sugar and empty calories. But you can make this delicious beverage at home and skip the extras.
The caffeine in chai latte is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it may aid in weight loss and reduce body fat, according to a meta-analysis published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition in October 2018. On the other hand, the sugar and empty calories in masala chai offset its beneficial effects on body weight.
Read more: 14 Legit Ways Coffee Can Boost Your Health
This natural stimulant may also improve cognition, memory, alertness and reaction time, reports a May 2017 review featured in Frontiers in Psychiatry. Several studies suggest that it may reduce pain as well.
On the negative side, caffeine may affect cardiovascular health, especially when consumed in large doses. As the researchers note, certain populations, such as pregnant women and individuals with heart disease or schizophrenia, should avoid caffeinated drinks.
In general, healthy adults may consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day without experiencing side effects, according to that study. If you're pregnant, try not to exceed 300 milligrams a day. Consult your doctor to stay on the safe side.
Is Chai Latte Healthy?
Black tea is rich in polyphenols and other bioactive compounds with health-promoting benefits. This beverage may protect against cardiovascular disease, improve blood lipids and facilitate weight loss by inhibiting the absorption of sugar and fats. Additionally, black tea polyphenols may help lower the risk of stroke, kill cancer cells and improve insulin response, according to a review published in the May-June 2019 edition of the International Journal of Health Sciences.
The spices in chai latte may have beneficial effects, as well. Cinnamon, saffron, ginger and cardamom, for example, may significantly improve cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Ginger may help relieve nausea and vomiting, while black pepper exhibits anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and gastro-protective effects.
All in all, masala chai can be consumed as part of a balanced diet. Make this beverage at home to reap its benefits. Chai tea latte concentrates are often packed with sugar and other additives, so you don't really know what's in your cup.
- Washington State University: "Chai Tea"
- Cambridge Dictionary: "Latte"
- Linn-Benton Community College: "Chai With Jai From India"
- Mayo Clinic: "Caffeine Content for Coffee, Tea, Soda and More"
- Starbucks: "Chai Latte"
- USDA: "Tea, Hot, Chai, With Milk"
- Starbucks: "Iced Chai Tea Latte"
- Washington State University: "Chai Tea Latte"
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: "The Effects of Caffeine Intake on Weight Loss: A Systematic Review and Dos-Response Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials"
- Frontiers in Psychiatry: "The Safety of Ingested Caffeine: A Comprehensive Review"
- International Journal of Health Sciences: "Molecular Evidences of Health Benefits of Drinking Black Tea"
- The Review of Diabetic Studies: "Effects of Cinnamon, Cardamom, Saffron, and Ginger Consumption on Markers of Glycemic Control, Lipid Profile, Oxidative Stress, and Inflammation in Type 2 Diabetes Patients"
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Ginger"
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: "Black Pepper and Health Claims: A Comprehensive Treatise"