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Journal
  • What is Chai?
  • Patrick Shaw
What is Chai?

Chai means “tea” throughout most of India. In West Bengal it is called cha, in Nepal and Darjeeling, chiyaa. The Hindi word chai, derived from the Mandarin or Cantonese word cha, refers to the black, green, oolong or other types of tea, all made through different processing methods from the same Camellia sinensis plant. Next to water, chai (also known as tea) is the world’s most consumed beverage.

In the West, "chai" refers to what in India is called masala chai. "Masala" means spice mixture. Masala chai is black tea brewed with spices like ginger and cardamom along with water, milk and sugar. In India, chai is made in fresh batches and drunk in almost every home. Each family has its own traditional way of making it. On every street there are open-air chai stalls where chai wallahs serve chai in small glasses or clay cups. It is a part of daily life – morning chai, afternoon chai and chai any time with friends or visitors. Most any gathering or transaction involves sitting down and sharing a small cup of chai. It is the commodity of friendship.

  • Patrick Shaw
  • chai