Does Chai Tea Have Caffeine?

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Chai Tea or Chai Masala is a sweet and spicy Indian tea that has become a popular drink worldwide. If you are a chai lover, you may have wondered ‘does chai tea have caffeine?’ 

So boil the billy, pour yourself a cuppa, and sit down as we take a closer look at chai tea, the caffeine content, and the factors that influence this.

Does Chai Tea Have Caffeine?- Short Answer

The short answer is that Chai tea does contain caffeine. An 8 oz cup of chai tea has around 50mg of caffeine. This caffeine comes from the tea leaves used to brew it. To put this into context, health experts recommend a maximum of 400 milligrams of caffeine per day for healthy adults. So crunching the numbers, chai tea makes up around 1/8th of your daily caffeine intake. 

What is Masala Chai?

Masala Chai or Chai tea is a popular Indian drink made from tea, spices, milk, and sugar. In Hindi, Masala means ‘spice,’ and chai is the word for tea. So Masala Chai literally means ‘spiced tea.’ Ironically, the West’s shortened version, Chai tea, is a bit misleading, as it literally translates to tea tea. 

Masala Chai dates back thousands of years to India, where legend has it a King created the beverage as a remedy for minor ailments. The original version consisted of a range of spices steeped in water. It contained no tea leaves, and the drink was caffeine free. As tea became more accessible, it started appearing in masala chai, along with milk and sweeteners, and Chai tea, as we know it today, was born.

Chai Tea

The Base

Traditionally, Chai tea is made with a base of black tea; however, most strong, dark teas work well in Masala Chai. Other variations of the drink are made with green tea, white tea, matcha, or rooibos for those seeking a caffeine-free version. To complicate things, many coffee shops now sell chai latte’s made from a flavored syrup and no tea. The wide variation in how a Chai tea is prepared means that the answer to how much caffeine is in a chai tea is not black and white.  

The Blend

The masala mix typically contains spices like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, black peppercorn, nutmeg, coriander, star anise, or fennel. Each spice blend is different, resulting in countless variations of chai tea mixes. The spice mix is steeped in water with the tea before being simmered with the milk.

loose chai tea

The Milk

In India, whole milk is usually used in chai masala. Whole milk produces a thick, creamy, and sweet drink. However, alternatives like Almond or Oat milk can also work well if you want a dairy-free option.

The Sweetener

To sweeten chai masala, you can add honey, sugar, or a sugar alternative to balance the drink. 

Does Chai Tea Have Caffeine?- The Long Answer

The amount of caffeine in chai tea varies depending on how it is prepared, and the tea used.

Tea Preparation

The first factor influencing the caffeine content of chai tea is how it is prepared. 

  • Leaf Size- Broken leaf tea, as found in tea bags, tends to have more caffeine than whole leaves.
  • Water Temperature- Chai tea should be steeped in hot water. The higher the water temperature, the more caffeine is released from the leaves.
  • Steep Time- The longer the tea leaves steep in hot water, the more caffeine is released. You could try a shorter steep time if you are trying to cut back on caffeine.
  • Amount Of Tea Used- The longer the tea leaves steep in hot water, the more caffeine is released. You could try a shorter steep time if you are trying to cut back on caffeine.

Tea Type

The second key factor that determines the caffeine content of chai tea is the type of tea being used. Ironically, even though black, white, and green tea leaves come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, they have differing levels of caffeine. 

This is due to differences in the harvest time and the level of oxidation of the leaves. Black tea leaves are oxidized, giving the characteristic sharp flavor and a higher caffeine level. In contrast, white and green tea leaves are not oxidized.

So the level of caffeine in chai tea depends on the tea you are using. Here is a short rundown of the caffeine in an 8 oz cup of chai, depending on which tea you are using.

  • Black Tea: 47-90 mg of caffeine 
  • Green Tea: 30-70 mg of caffeine 
  • White Tea: 6-55 mg of caffeine
  • Matcha Tea: 70 mg of caffeine per teaspoon
  • Rooibos Tea: no caffeine
Different types of tea

If you are trying to cut back on caffeine, you could substitute black tea for white tea, which contains around half the caffeine. Rooibos is another excellent option being a herbal tea that is caffeine free. 

Green tea contains a moderate amount of caffeine, whereas matcha can be very high depending on how much you are using.

Caffeine in Tea

Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in many plants’ leaves, seeds, and fruits. Among these are cocoa beans, coffee beans, and tea leaves. Caffeine works by speeding up messages through the central nervous system to the brain, making you feel more alert.

The caffeine in tea works differently from the caffeine found in coffee. This is primarily due to compounds in the tea known as Tannins. Caffeine binds to the tannins in tea, preventing it from being released rapidly into the body. Instead, it is released slowly over an extended period, producing a more stable caffeination. Drinking tea results in a calm, relaxed, and focused mood.

Caffeine In Chai Tea Compared To Coffee

Many people opt for chai tea as an alternative to coffee. And if you are sensitive to caffeine, this is a good option. Coffee contains almost twice the amount of caffeine, with an 8 oz cup of brewed coffee having around 95 mg. Espresso is even higher in caffeine, with a single shot of espresso having 63 mg of caffeine and a double shot 125 mg.  

Does Chai Tea Have Caffeine- The Verdict

So hopefully, now you have an answer to the question ‘does chai tea have caffeine?’ Chai tea contains around 50 mg of caffeine per cup. This amount varies depending on how the tea is brewed and what type of tea you use. There is a moderate amount of caffeine in Chai tea and almost half the level in a cup of coffee. Using rooibos as a base can give you caffeine-free chai tea if you are sensitive to caffeine.

Faqs

Does A Chai Latte Have Caffeine In It?

This depends on how the chai latte is prepared. A chai latte is usually made by mixing steamed milk with black tea and spices, a chai concentrate, or flavored syrup. If a coffee shop uses a powder or chai concentrate, you may find it contains a lower level of caffeine. However, many coffee shops opt to use chai-flavored syrup, which typically doesn’t contain caffeine. 

What Is A Dirty Chai?

Dirty chai is when you add an espresso shot to a spiced chai tea. It’s usually made from chai syrup or powder, a single shot of espresso, and topped with steamed milk. Dirty chai contains much more caffeine than traditional chai tea, with around 160 mg in a 12 oz dirty chai. It is an excellent option for those looking for a stronger caffeine kick.

Are There Caffeine-Free Versions Of Chai Tea?

If you are looking for a caffeine-free version of chai tea, the best option would be to use rooibos as the base. Rooibos tea is a herbal tea that is naturally caffeine free. It blends well with chai spices producing a mild and sweet brew. 

The other alternative would be to make a chai latte using chai-flavored syrup. You have to check whether the syrup has tea extract in it. If it does, there may be a small amount of caffeine.