Spilling the Tea on Bala Chai: How Adaptogens Can Make Chai Tea More Functional
It’s time to rē-think your beverage of choice…
Bharat and Radha Vishnubhotla grew up drinking aromatic chai that their mother brewed in the kitchen. “It was always waiting for us when we got back from school,” the brother and sister co-founders of Bala Chai tell rē•spin. Inspired by her background as an Ayurvedic practitioner — a school of holistic medicine with roots in India — they decided to give India’s national drink a functional boost — with ayurvedic spices, herbs, and adaptogens. “Each element of our chai has a specific healing property that results in a delicious, immunity-boosting beverage: cardamom is an aromatic antioxidant, ginger is a well-known anti-inflammatory, cinnamon aids digestion, and black pepper is a bold kick to awaken the system.”
Chai for Chillness
Their first step was to incorporate the stress-reducing herb ashwagandha, which is famous for its ability to help make you more resilient in the face of stress. This study confirms that ashwagandha root “improves an individual’s resistance to stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life,” while this study concludes that therapeutic dosages of ashwagandha can reduce stressful feelings, but also reduce the physiological indicators of the stress response in the body (i.e., cortisol concentrations, pulse rate, blood pressure, etc.).
The only problem is, if you’ve ever tasted ashwagandha, it has, well, a distinctive (read: highly unpleasant) flavor. And so, the duo got to work concocting a formula that could mask the ultra-bitter herb. “It took a lot of workshopping to make sure [the taste] didn’t overpower the classic chai elements, while still including enough for you to feel its stress-relieving effects,” they say.
In fact, it really can be done; ashwagandha is also found in one of our favorite collagen supplements we like adding to coffee, so we can vouch that it helps to counteract the typical caffeine jitters and crash. This makes Bala Chai’s tea ideal for tea-drinkers throughout the day, especially those that could use some stress-reduction in their lives (without scrimping on flavor). “We believe we [have] found the perfect ratio that helps counteract the caffeine crash so you can take on the rest of your day.”
Another way that Bala Chai is rē-conceptualizing the way they do business is by working with suppliers that they have personally vetted, infusing ethics into their sustainable business model. “The tea we source comes from woman-owned, single-estate farms in the rolling hills of Assam in Northern India,” they tell rē•spin. “The estates we work with [take sustainability] a step further and commit to being regenerative, improving soil fertility and biodiversity through composting, without the use of chemical fertilizers.” By operating with integrity that is at work throughout the entire supply chain, Bala Chai seeks to make chai’s Stateside legacy one that makes the world better.
Unwinding with Tea
Part of the beauty of enjoying a cup of chai tea is the way that it forces you to take a therapeutic pause. “We want to make tea an intimate and thoughtful experience. In a world of instant everything, taking the time to brew and strain and sit with your steaming cup of chai and your thoughts is incredibly important,” they say. “From the estate in Assam, all the way to your mugs, lots of care goes into the chai mix, so we want you to be fully present and enjoy the rare moments of peace in the busy day.”
Here are some other ways to work ashwagandha into your diets:
Bala Chai, $21
“We created a healthier version of chai that highlights the nuances of cardamom and tea leaves but doesn’t leave you with the crash that a standard, over-sweetened chai concentrate will,” the co-founders share.
The ancient medicinal herb — with benefits that boost brain function, lower blood sugar, and reduce the stress hormone cortisol — now comes in a gluten-free, vegan gummy.
This functional blend is so delicious that you can use it to make a cup of hot cocoa, you can add it to your coffee for a calming mocha, or you can use it for sweet treats — like Chocolate Superfood Rice Crispie Treats.
If you like peppermint, reach for this blend of two potent adaptogens — ashwagandha and reishi mushroom — to whip up a stress-busting beverage of choice. They recommend adding water for a “chocolate peppermint tea” taste, or adding nut milk for peppermint hot chocolate.
Gaia Herbs Golden Milk, $22.99
This vegan and dairy-free supplement can be mixed with milk, non-dairy milk, or even coffee, to deliver some relief in the form of an Ayurvedic tonic throughout the day. Ashwagandha, anti-inflammatory turmeric, cardamom, dates, and vanilla sweeten the deal.
Moon Juice SuperYou, $49
For a daily capsule that helps with stress-reduction, Moon Juice makes a compelling blend. Organic ashwagandha, vitamin C-rich amla, hormone-balancing Shatavari, and focus-enhancing Rhodiola make this one incredibly popular method of managing your cortisol and feelings of stress.
For some straight-up ashwagandha capsules, we like that Dr. Josh Axe’s supplement company pays close attention to sourcing and the functional roots of healing. The supplement is keto-friendly, gluten-free, vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, and nut-free.