Tea is being studied for many health benefits, from lowering blood cholesterol levels and preventing cancer, to boosting metabolism, which may play a role in weight control. These health promoting benefits likely come from antioxidants found in particular abundance in tea.

Americans appear to be drinking more tea, as witnessed by the growing selection of teas at coffee shops and the almost overwhelming wall of teas on display at supermarkets. Much of this consumption, I suspect, comes from desiring its health benefits, more than from the appreciation of the aroma and exquisite flavors that lead the Japanese to meditate over matcha, the powdered green tea in their tea ceremony, and the Chinese to prize Iron Goddess of Mercy, an oolong tea costing up to $1500.00 a pound.

My theory is that tea’s astringently bitter taste, which comes from the very antioxidants providing its benefits, is what puts us off, since Americans notoriously dislike bitterness. It also explains the abundance of flavored teas available, from green tea with Moroccan mint, and mango-peach white tea, to a popular black tea blended with orange zest and a proprietary blend of “sweet spices” that is now a classic.

Chai, the Indian combination of strong tea, milk and spices gives you tea’s benefits plus addictively appealing flavor. The tea can be black, green or white, regular or decaffeinated. One of my favorites is this Chocolate Chai, which adds the bliss of chocolate and benefits of chocolate’s antioxidant flavonols.

Chocolate Chai – Makes 4 servings.

4 cardamom pods, cracked

1 (4-inch) piece cinnamon stick

4 whole cloves

1/4 tsp. anise seed

2 – 4 (1/4-inch) slices fresh ginger, peeled (see note*)

2 cups water

2 black tea bags

2 Tbsp. unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups unsweetened almond or soymilk

3 Tbsp. agave syrup, honey or stevia, or to taste

Place cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, anise seed and ginger in medium saucepan, add 2 cups water, and place over medium-high heat. When water simmers, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat for 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add tea bags, cover, and steep for 4 minutes. Remove tea bags, cover, and steep brewed tea with spices for 20 minutes. Strain to remove spices, and return spiced tea to saucepan.

In small bowl, whisk cocoa with 1/4 cup of hot tea until dissolved, then add to tea. Mix in vanilla, and almond or soymilk. Heat chai over medium-high heat until steaming. Sweeten to taste then pour into mugs, or divide chai among 4 mugs and sweeten it to taste individually.

*Note: Ginger root varies in thickness. If you have a fat piece, 2 slices may be enough.

Per serving: 120 calories, 3.5 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 21 g carbohydrate, 4 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber, 65 mg sodium.

The Author:

Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $91 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

Article Posted: January 4, 2011

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