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Does Chai Contain Caffeine? The Real Amount Revealed

Updated: Mar 7

We get asked the question, "Is there caffeine in chai?" all of the time.


In this comprehensive blog post, we'll explore what causes varying levels of caffeine and what you can do to increase or decrease the amount in your chai.


Does chai contain caffeine?


The short answer to this question is, yes chai does contain caffeine. If the chai you are drinking contains black tea, then it will contain some amount of caffeine. But I assume you didn’t just come here for the short answer, so if you are interested, read on for our full answer.


What is caffeine?


Caffeine is a naturally occurring chemical found in some plants, particularly in their leaves and fruits. It is a stimulant, which means that it increases the activity of the central nervous system. This has many effects but is consumed most commonly for its ability to increase alertness and reduce tiredness.


What a lot of people don’t know, is that all of the different tea types including green, white and oolong, are all made using the same tea plant (Camellia Sinensis). How much caffeine it has though, requires a slightly more in-depth answer.


A surface with tea in glasses, a black metal tea pot and spices decide it.
Image Description: Cups of Chai Beside a Black Tea Pot and Spices

Chai, coming from the Hindi word for “tea”, is a blend of black tea, spices and a sweetener such as honey or sugar. Typically, chai will contain spices such as cinnamon, cloves, star anise and black peppercorn. The exact recipe varies greatly depending on the region it comes from and today we have many different types of chai. What it does traditionally contain though is tea, and where there is tea, there is caffeine.


While the caffeine-induced buzz has been a perk of tea and coffee since they were found to make a tasty drink, it wasn’t until the 1800’s that caffeine was first discovered. Caffeine was stumbled upon in 1819 by Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge, an inquisitive German scientist, and has been hailed ever since as a miracle drug. Well-loved for its ability to keep late night study sessions going and for early morning school runs, caffeine is arguably a national treasure. But if you are here reading this, our assumption is that you’re potentially looking less caffeine in your life, or questioning whether chai has enough caffeine in it to keep you going through your day.


How is caffeine measured in drinks?


Caffeine is measure in milligrams or “mg” for short. Today, it can be measured quite accurately using advanced UV Spectroscopy. Simply, this is a process of passing light through a liquid and then measuring the light wavelengths. By doing this, chemical quantities can be recorded. In this case, caffeine is the chemical being recorded.

Image of the chemical formula for caffeine on a blackboard
Image Description: Caffeine Formula

How much caffeine is there in chai?


Chai recipes differ greatly depending on where in the world you find it and the recipe that makes it. The main factor in how much caffeine a cup of chai contains is less dependent on the actual tea leaf, but rather the quantity of tea leaf. The amount of spice compared to tea is also quite a big factor. While some chai may only use 1-2g of tea leaf per serving, others can easily use 4-6g, thus increasing the caffeine quantities.


There are many different factors that can change the caffeine levels in a tea. Some of these include the terroir (the things that make up the tea growing area like soil, amount of rainfall, altitude etc.), the time of the year the tea leaves are picked and the way in which the leaves are processed. A black tea can vary from about 35/40mg right up to 75mg depending on the leaf.


In addition to this, a tea steeped for 5 minutes, compared to a quick dip and dash, will result in higher levels of caffeine.


What you will also find is that because chai also contains spices, the tea is “bulked up” and the overall caffeine levels are going to be lower than a standard tea. A quick search of the internet and you will see that the general consensus is that a black tea contains about 47mg of caffeine (per 8oz cup).


Chart with caffeine levels

Drink (oz and ml)

Caffeine Levels (mg)

8oz (237ml) of black coffee

96mg

1oz (30ml) of espresso

64mg

8oz (237ml) of black tea

47mg

8oz (237ml) of chai

21mg

8oz (237ml) of green tea

28mg

8oz (237ml) of diet coke

33mg

8oz (237ml) of energy drink

74mg

In our chai each 3g serving is made up of tea, spices, ginger and honey. The actual amount of caffeine would therefore be about 21mg per cup. To give some context. An 8oz black coffee (a regular sized coffee cup) contains about 96mg of caffeine.


This would mean that a coffee would have 4 times more caffeine than a cup of chai of the same size. For those who like practical math, you could have 4 cups of chai before even getting near to the amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee.


Male barista serving coffee in a coffee bar
Image Description: Male Barista Serving Drip Coffee

Lower caffeine chai alternatives


In the last few years caffeine-free alternative chai has become quite popular. We offer on our store a Herbal Chai blended using an Organic Rooibos base. This chai is completely caffeine-free and is the perfect companion with a book or relaxing episode of your favourite show before bed.


Higher caffeine chai alternatives


The above caffeine calculations we have made were with a 3g serving of chai in mind. To make a chai latte, you would double the amount of chai mix used, and as a result, doubling the amount of caffeine.


Enjoy a chai latte but want a bit more of a caffeine kick? You can add a shot of espresso to your next chai to turn it into a “Dirty Chai Latte”. This is sure to satisfy your chai needs while also keeping any tiredness away.


Health consideration when consuming caffeine


Caffeine, when consumed in moderate amounts, is widely agreed to be safe for most people by scientists. The issues arise when large amounts are consumed, particularly in caffeine-high energy drinks or when the coffee habit gets a little out of control. Issues like insomnia, irrationality, increased heart rate and anxiety can all start to show their heads.


We have all experienced the regret of having “just a little cup” of tea or coffee too close to bed time. For those sensitive to caffeine, chai is a great alternative due to its lower levels compared to coffee or standard, black tea bags.


Tea also contains L-theanine. This amino acid only found in tea (and one type of mushroom) has a relaxing effect on the body and acts as a counter to caffeine. This is why tea drinkers often report higher levels of productivity and lower instances of “crashing” mid-day.


Another perk of tea-based drinks is the high levels of antioxidants found in them which slow down the body’s absorption of caffeine resulting in you staying alert for longer without the dreaded post-caffeine crash


Conclusion


In conclusion, chai does have caffeine, but much less than plain tea and much, much less than coffee. While we have seen that caffeine levels do vary in tea, the addition of spices to chai helps in reducing large fluctuations in caffeine amounts. This allows you to keep an eye on the amount you are consuming and also drink more chai before you hit your limit.


One thing we know is a concern is that a lot of people know chai for it’s “Chai Latte” form from coffee shop chains. These are made with milk and contain a high level of sugars due to them being processed. We recommend trying a loose-leaf chai which can be enjoyed with freshly boiled water and a splash of milk added for taste if you like milk in your tea. This option reduces calories significantly and will turn chai from a once-in-a-while treat to a guilt free, easy to enjoy option. We hope this has answered your question as to whether chai contains caffeine! Let us know in the comments if you have any other questions about chai you would like to know the answer to.


You can reach out to us on Instagram, Facebook or by sending us an email to info@chalachai.com.


Until next time,

Andrew McGuire

(Chala Chai Founder)


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ANDREW MCGUIRE

CHALA FOUNDER & CHAI EDUCATOR

Hello there!

If you want to learn more about chai, you have come to the right place!

 

With chai continuing to grow in popularity, there are lots of questions to be answered.

In my blog posts, I answer the questions that I receive daily from customers and those who come across Chala at markets or online.

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