Why I Ditched Coffee for Masala Chai

For years, I avoided trying chai. I dunno know why, I just did. Maybe I was just very attached to my membership card to the coffee-drinkers club.

It was really very silly though, because I do love me some cinnamon and spices. But I think I just loved that dark, tangy elixir that always seemed to bring me to life each day even more.

I can’t really say that I was ever overly-concerned with the effects of coffee or caffeine on my body until I sustained my first stress fracture. I probably should have been, though, since I’m a woman over the age of 30 — the point when most women begin to lose bone mass.

During each of my stress fracture recoveries (there were a few), I significantly cut back on caffeine per doctor’s orders to help speed the healing of my poor bones. I substituted coffee with green tea, which I learned to like. But after the recovery, it wasn’t good enough to stand in for my morning cup of joe.

So what did finally fit the bill? A masala chai latte.

It actually happened while I was at a week-long training at Kripalu in Massachusetts. Every morning in the cafeteria, they would put out this dairy-free masala chai latte that was simply amazeballs. It totally rocked my world. So much so that, when I left Kripalu, returned home and reintroduced coffee back into my life, I actually started to notice how coffee made me feel.

It took a few days of regular coffee consumption, but my newly-brightened skin began to get dull and sensitive again. The pungent quality of coffee that I used to love just seemed to make me more mentally agitated. The acidity in my digestive seemed to increase and I was more dehydrated. In other words, I found coffee to be somewhat irritating to my system.

At that point, I went in search of a masala chai that I could turn into a latte at home.

What is Masala Chai?

Masala means “spice” and chai means “tea”. It’s black tea with a mixture of Indian spices and herbs — traditionally cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and black peppercorns.

You can buy it as a loose tea or in bags for brewing straight up (or turned into a delicious latte like I do). And now that the days are heating up, I’m totally digging it as an iced latte, too.

Masala chai is very neutralizing, almost calming to my digestive system, and contains enough caffeine to get me started but not enough to make me feel jacked up or edgy. After a few days of drinking it (rather than coffee), my skin was clearer and calmer and the signs of dehydration began to fade.

My Faves

I’m partial to Rishi’s Masala Chai due to its spicy nature, which gives it just the right amount of bite without a ton of cinnamon smacking you in the tastebuds first thing in the morning as some other chai lattes tend to do. Look, I enjoy cinnamon, but in order for another drink to have a prayer of taking the place of my morning cup of joe, it’s gotta have a some sharpness, not just be cinnamon-y and sweet.

masala chai

I find Rishi’s Tea Concentrate to be the easiest to manage since I’m usually out the door well before the sun comes up in the morning. I just heat a cup of coconut milk plus a cup of concentrate in a saucepan for a few minutes then I can be on my way. The concentrate is sweetened with organic evaporated cane juice and organic blackstrap molasses, so if you’re cutting back on sugar, you can also brew the tea bags or loose tea with water and milk (or a dairy substitute) and then sweeten (or not) to taste.

Notes About Caffeine Reduction

For each eight-ounce serving, black tea has 40-75mg of caffeine and coffee can have as much as 150mg. So by making the switch, you won’t be going cold turkey, but you may be significantly reducing your caffeine intake, which can still have some unpleasant side effects in the short term like fatigue, headaches, and irritability.

Don’t let that deter you though — in the long term, less caffeine is so much better for your nervous system, bones, and digestive system.

While the withdrawal symptoms won’t be as bad as the cold turkey approach, in order to minimize the effects of cutting back, be sure to:

  • up your daily water intake to stay hydrated and fight the sluggishness and
  • take good care of you by eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising and getting fresh air.

Ever tried to swap out for your morning coffee? How’d it go —Alison

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