Tea or Chai?

Which do you prefer Tea or Chai?  It may be news to a lot of people but tea and chai are actually the same thing.  Chai is the original Chinese word for tea, going back many centuries in history to BC times, to when the tea plant was first used to produce the popular beverage.  These are the only 2 words in the world to describe the drink.

Obviously nowadays it is most commonly known by the word Tea or a derivation of it, throughout most of Europe and North America.

The difference in the names is down to quite simply how the beverage was distributed throughout the world, when it first left China.  There were basically 2 ways this happened.

When tea left China it took one of 2 routes, the northern route by land, or the southern route by sea. The northern route, which for a good part took the silk road leaving China and heading to Korea (Cha) and Japan (Ocha), going eastward and travelling westward into Persia (Chay), India (Chaay) and Turkey (Chay), The Middle East (Shay) and Northern Africa (Shayi) and eventually into Europe via Greece (Tsai), Russia (Chay) and Eastern Finland (Tsaiju), in all of these countries the word has come from a derivation of Cha. 



In Min Nan a port in southern China, the beverage was known as Te, I assume that would be due to different Chinese dialects throughout the different provinces, from here it was taken to sea across to Malaysia (Teh), I assume by Dutch explorers as the next stop off was Holland (Thee), which allowed to beverage to find it’s way round Western Europe including the UK (Tea) and to South Africa, again by the Dutch as the Afrikaans word for it is Tee.  Interestingly Finland appears to have two names for it as Western Finland also know it as “Tee”, Nowadays known as “Teeta”.


From this short description you can see that the word Tea or Chai, has derived from the Chinese Cha, and has travelled around the world and has very similar words in any language.


Nowadays Chai Tea is one of the main groups of Tea originating in South East Asia and is very popular, especially Masala Chai Tea not only throughout the world, but is such a vastly popular drink in India.


Masala tea is actually just a black tea which is boiled up with Milk and Water and then to give the unique flavour it is mixed with warming spices, such as Cardamom, Ginger, Cloves, Coriander, Cinnamon and Black Pepper.  Giving a wonderful Warming Spicy Tea ideal for the cold days and when you need something to really warm you up.  It is very flavoursome tea with a good full bodied spicy taste.

In Hindi the word “Masala” means “spices” and “chai” means “Tea”. So masala chai is milk tea brewed with aromatic spices.  The spices are not limited to those above but can include numerous others such as, star anise, fennel, nutmeg.


If you would like to try a Chai tea for yourself Tea-Adora has 3 different varieties you may wish to look try.