Coffee: Expectations vs. Reality (Stress-Stimulant Vs Stress-Relief)
From the early morning grind, mid-afternoon crash and working late into the night—many of us reach for that cup-of-joe for a much needed boost.
However, the instant caffeine boost can add stress to our body in a negative way. Many habitual coffee drinkers often report adverse effects like caffeine headaches, disrupt or reduce sleep patterns, difficulty falling asleep, frequent bathroom trips (due to diuretic effect), and feeling irritated or anxious. [1-3,19]
To help take some of the stress off, we offer an alternative drink—Chai Tea.
In this article, we’ll share caffeine’s effect on stress levels and how chai can help regulate it.
Caffeine—Stress-Stimulant Vs Stress-Relief
Stress comes in all forms, from hard physical exercise to worrying about work presentations. The subsystem of sympathetic nervous system (SNS) that manages stress, be it during activity or rest, is called hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. It does so by regulating hormones that are essential to our survival. [4-5]
Hormones include cortisol which quickly assembles energy into bloodstream and epinephrine / norepinephrine that prepares the body for action (fight-or-flight response). [4-5]
High levels of caffeine in coffee can lead to system stress. Caffeine influences HPA axis by releasing stress hormones (cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine) from their glands that raise respiration, heart rate and blood pressure. 
While this endocrine response kept our ancestors safe from predators, it causes damages during ongoing or chronic stress of our daily modern lives. And, caffeine increases cortisol and epinephrine to the acute (fight-or-flight) levels even when we are at rest. [6,7] Therefore, drinking several cups of coffee recreates stress conditions inside the body.
So, how can the benefits of caffeine be enjoyed without its drawbacks?
For many, the answer is Chai Tea.
Chai tea (aka Chai, masala chai or spiced tea) is a well known stress-reliever. Study after study links tea to numerous health benefits including reducing stress, feeling calm and more relaxed.
Both black  and green  teas shown to inhibit cortisol mechanisms while providing adequate caffeine for sustainable energy.
Spices like turmeric [10,13], tulsi , and cardamom  contain polyphenol-type antioxidants that fight oxidative stress, reduce inflammation and lower cortisol along with hallmark stress markers.
As caffeine is considered a stimulant, coffee packs a stronger punch that jump starts our nervous system.  While this may be an effective morning wakeup drink, the downside of such energy surge is a typical crash that follows.  This bounce in energy levels causes hormone fluctuations that further stresses our systems.
Caffeine in chai has a slower time release when it comes to energy spikes thanks to L-theanine and tannins. [15,16]
L-theanine is an amino acid which doubles up as antioxidant capable of modifying caffeine’s absorption rate while promoting focus and calm. [16,19] L-theanine produces alpha waves encouraging relaxation, alertness and happier mood. 
Tannins are a class of polyphenols that can bind to various organic compounds producing a dark-brownish colour and dry-bitter taste of black tea.  Black tea’s tannins such as theaflavins, theasinensins and thearubigins are strong antioxidants that bind to caffeine and slow down its release and effect on the brain. [14,16]
Furthermore, spices in chai blends like black pepper, coriander, turmeric, and ginger shown to positively interact with caffeine in a less jolty manner. 
Diuretics are substances that cause the body to expel sodium (Na+) and water. Drinking coffee won’t dehydrate you but, caffeine does have a diuretic effect which increases trips to the washroom. [3,18,20] Scientists are still working on exact method that involves several inter-related processes.
Caffeine affects adenosine receptors including the ones found in kidneys by lowering reabsorption of sodium (Na+). Sodium pulls water from blood on the way out of the body, increasing fluids and producing more urine. [3,20,21] Since coffee has much more caffeine, habitual coffee drinkers (4 plus cups per day) experience acute diuretic effect. 
Chai with its lower caffeine levels is both a far tastier and more sustainable energy source. A cup of chai without addition of milk or sweetener contains more than 90% of water.
Teas and spices come with a full micronutrient profile including sodium, magnesium and potassium. Together, these elements help to balance fluids, hydrate the body and enhance performance of various organ tissues. [13-25] Tests of black tea show similar hydration levels when compared against water. 
The polyphenols within coffee produce positive effects and help to protect the body against oxidative stress.  However, the high caffeine content in coffee affects HPA axis increasing both heart rate and blood pressure, even during rest. [4.5]
With an average half life of four hours, caffeine can create jittery feelings in habitual coffee drinkers as well as caffeine sensitive individuals. 
In excess, coffee can pose higher risk for a heart attack or stroke as certain roasts and brewing methods elevate diterpenes that shown to increase cholesterol. 
Chai tea has been linked to numerous benefits including fewer odds of heart disease. Drinking black or green teas on regular basis can reduce blood pressure as well as many cardiovascular risk factors such as blood sugar, bad (LDL) cholesterol and overall triglyceride levels. [9,29-31]
Cinnamon is one of the common ingredients of chai with significant cardiovascular health properties that lowers blood pressure and improves blood fat and cholesterol profiles. And, you don’t need a lot to get a lot. Daily doses of cinnamon as little as 120 mg can be sufficient to offer described benefits. 
For many of us coffee has been a habitual and morning ritual drink. But, the caffeine surges and following side effects have many searching for a healthier and steadier alternative.
Spice-forward Chai Teas are a popular substitute to coffee. Enjoy balanced energy through slow release caffeinated teas, paired up with anti-inflammatory spices. Together these all natural ingredients hydrate the body, enhance function and promote calm and relaxation.
At Dupi’s Chai, we are famous for our warming, calming and 100% spice-forward blends. They smell and taste great and are served at cafes as Chai Latte options.
So, go ahead and De-stress with our Functional Spiced Teas—they are a Game Changer!