What is Chai Tea?

Chai tea is an aromatic beverage that blends black tea with various herbs and spices. The most common spices used in chai are cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove, black pepper, and star anise. Specialized variations of chai tea can include ingredients like ashwagandha or mushrooms. Modern baristas also serve chai lattes by adding steamed or iced milk to steeped chai tea. The name "chai" is the Hindi language word for "tea." This Hindi word derives from the Chinese language term for tea known as chá (茶). As a term used primarily in the Indian subcontinent, the word "chai" is also popular in other Hindi-speaking communities located in Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Guyana, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Nepal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In fact, when you order a chai tea, what you’re really saying is “tea tea,” so in India, it’s referred to as masala chai. Masala chai is the tea drink we’re generally referring to when we order a chai tea as it traditionally includes milk and sweetener.


The history of chai is an intriguing blend of tradition, exploration, mythology, and legend. According to legend, chai originated over 5,000 years ago as a beverage that upheld the holistic principles of Ayurveda. In South Asia, Ayurveda is an ancient Indian healing practice that uses herbs for culinary and medicinal purposes. By the 1600s, Indian chai makers began using Chinese black tea leaves known as Camellia Sinensis Assamica to create chai tea. In 1835, the British arrived in India and began to establish tea plantations throughout the country. These plantations standardized the types of black tea used to make chai. From then on, the black tea used to create chai was typically Assam and Darjeeling tea from India or Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka. British culture helped spread the popularity of tea worldwide and chai soon became a favorite beverage across the globe.


The popularity of chai has only increased during the 21st century. Nutritionists believe that chai tea is a great source of antioxidants, and the various spices used to make chai may provide health benefits as well. Research has found that cinnamon may help lower blood pressure and improve overall heart health. In addition, cardamom may help reduce inflammation, and ginger may encourage efficient digestion along with its antiviral benefits. Along with the potential health benefits, experts like Dr. Sanjay Gupta believe that making chai tea at home is the perfect bonding experience for families.

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