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There I was, exhausted and spinning out simultaneously, staring at an empty French press, wondering how I had managed to drink all the coffee.
And still, I could barely keep my eyes open.
Something had to give here, but surely not my bf (bean friend). I mean, coffee had gotten me through college and my 20s, 30s, and most of my 40s so far. We obviously had a long and meaningful relationship, with a few breaks here and there, like when I was pregnant and then nursing. Even then I would sneak in a small cup here and there. I love my coffee sweet and creamy, and flavored creamer is, quite simply, my kryptonite.
Now, to be fair, I was also a staunch tea fan, especially of chai tea, with all its spicy warmth. And creaminess. Like when you add above noted creamer to the chai…ah, heaven. If coffee was morning go juice, then chai was afternoon comfort.
If I couldn’t have coffee, chai was a close second. Even better was the dirty chai, a chai tea with a shot of espresso. Dirty heaven. Ahem.
Back to the point at hand. I had to ask myself, what was coffee doing for me? It was time to get real with myself. It was time for a pros and cons list, people. If you don’t know me well, know that this is one of my favorite things to do. As you peruse the list, it may be time to brew up something nice and warm. With creamer. Just saying.
>> Helps me wake up quickly. A typical cup of joe has 95-plus milligrams of caffeine.
>> Studies show improved mood and lower risk of depression.
>> Said to lower risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and colorectal cancer.
>> Goes extremely well with flavored creamer.
>> Stains teeth, clothing, anything it gets spilled on. Obviously, this never happens to me.
>> Could increase LDL—the “bad” cholesterol—French press especially.
>> Sometimes gives me heartburn—even decaf is reported to cause this.
>> Can raise blood pressure and increase risk of heart disease—these run in my family, ugh.
>> Can disturb sleep. If you’ve met me, you know the struggle for sleep is too real.
>> Can cause jitters and nervousness. Could coffee be contributing to my anxiety?
>> Lower absorption of magnesium—probably a reason coffee is considered bad for bones. Osteoporosis runs in my family, so this is not great news.
>> Less caffeine, about half of coffee. Better for sleep, which is better for everything.
>> Antioxidants and catechins—fight inflammation, heart disease, good for brain health.
>> Lowers risk for colon and liver cancers.
>> Bone density is better in tea drinkers.
>> Younger biological age reported in tea drinkers. I love this one!
>> Some caffeine, which can affect sleep.
>> Black tea can stain teeth.
>> Less mood affecting, less of a charge in the morning.
>> Goes slightly less well with flavored creamer.
Well. Armed with this information and suffering from a bad stomach bug, I decided to take a break from my favorite bean friend. Of course, I had the withdrawal headache and sluggishness, but I was sick anyways and chalked it up to that.
Once I was on the mend, I decided to retire my beloved French press and make the switch to chai (btw, “chai” means tea). That way, I got to use up my supply of creamer. I am nothing if not practical.
I decided to try making my own chai, so I bought a new French press and checked through my cupboards and found some ingredients for chai: black tea, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cloves, ginger, and black pepper.
This pile of spices made me wonder if chai wasn’t especially healthy. Another list (she laughs maniacally)!
Health Benefits of Chai
All the spices below are high in antioxidants, which help mood and overall cellular health. They are all inflammation fighters, too.
>> Cinnamon is said to help balance (lower) blood sugar, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
>> Cloves have been shown to have antibacterial properties, can help liver health, bone health, blood sugar, and stomach ulcers.
>> Cardamom is said to lower blood pressure, fight cancer, help digestion including stomach ulcers, treat bad breath and prevent cavities, improve lung function, protect the liver, and help the mood.
>> Ginger is known to help with nausea, digestion, and muscle pain; can lower blood sugar and cholesterol; may reduce risk for heart disease; and may even prevent cancer.
>> Black pepper can help brain health, improve blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and fight cancer.
What is to decide here? I am a (mostly) health-conscious person who loves a warm, creamy drink. I made the switch and haven’t gone back yet.
Here’s what I’ve discovered so far:
With coffee, I would get amped up early and crash hard midday. During the amped time, I could get an amazing amount of work done, but I was a bit, like coffee itself, acidic. If I drank it anywhere near noon or after, I would not sleep at all that night.
Since I switched to chai, I have had a less abrupt rise and fall to my energy, and I am able to maintain my energy levels throughout the day. I’m still able to rock through my work, but am also approachable. My overall mood is better, softer, and more cheerful, and my sleep is deeper and longer. Chai is the clear winner for me.
Confession: I’m not always making my own chai; I occasionally have Starbucks or buy concentrated chai to keep in the fridge for those rushed mornings. Bhakti Chai is one of my favorites!
If you’re committed to the bean, I get you, friend. Find some ways to make your coffee healthier here. Another way I learned was to add some cardamom to the brew to help reduce acid.