The key difference between chai and tea is that chai contains spices and herbs, whereas tea does not.
Chai tea or masala tea contains black tea, hot milk and spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, pepper and cloves. Tea, on the other hand, is a beverage made by pouring boiling water into the fresh leaves of Camellia sinensis. Based on the drinkers’ preference, milk and sweeteners may or may not be added to chai and tea.
What is Chai?
Chai is a beverage made by boiling black tea in water or milk along with a mixture of spices and herbs. It originated in India and is popular in the Indian subcontinent, in countries like India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. But now it is popular in other countries as well, especially in Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The word ‘chai’ is taken from the Hindi word ‘chai’, which was derived from the Chinese word ‘cha’, meaning ‘tea’.
The recipes of chai tea differ in various regions, cultures and even among families. There are different names for this tea based on the spices added. Masala chai is made from black tea with milk, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, ginger, cloves and black pepper. If fennel seeds are added to the milk tea, it becomes Saunf wali chai. If ginger is added, it is Adrak Chai. At present, chai is made using different ways. It is not always necessary to use black tea. Instead, green tea, white tea or even blended tea can be used in making chai. Based on the preference, lemon too can be added, while sugar or honey are used to sweeten it. However, green tea and white tea are best without milk or sugar added to it.
Most Western countries now have chai tea bags into which powdered spices are already added. Instead of hot chai tea, these Western countries also have cold chai tea. There are various snacks to be consumed with chai tea. These spicy snacks are meant to be dipped in chai tea and eat. These snacks include Murukku, Pakora, Samosa and tiny sandwiches. Unsweetened chai is beneficial for health in various ways. It lowers blood sugar and blood pressure and improves peace of mind. It has antioxidants like catechins and theaflavins so, it prevents cancer and fights oxidative stress. Because of the spices added, it is also good for digestion and weight loss.
What is Tea?
Tea is a beverage made by pouring boiling water into the fresh leaves of Camellia sinensis. It is the second most-consumed drink in the world, after water. The history of tea goes as far as the 3rd century A.D. At that time, it was used as a medicinal drink. Tea has a stimulating effect on human beings because of its caffeine content. There are various kinds of tea such as black, white, green, oolong and pu-erh. There are also other varieties like matcha, purple, flavoured, mate, herbal and rooibos. They all come from the same plant: Camellia sinensis.
The tea plant is an evergreen, sub-tropical shrub native to East Asia and China. However, it is widely grown in other parts of the world at present. This plant is grown naturally in many parts of Asia. Usually, the best tea is grown on steep slopes and high elevations. They should be hand-plucked. There are two types of tea making methods: orthodox and unorthodox.
Orthodox is the traditional method. In this method, the top two tender leaves and an unopened tender bud are hand-plucked and processed using five steps. In the unorthodox method, tea leaves may or may not be hand-plucked. This method is mainly for black tea and is much faster. The unorthodox method is also known as CTC (crush-tear-curl). Generally, this is used in the teabag industry and also to make masala chai tea because of its strength and colour.
What is the Difference Between Chai and Tea?
Chai is a tea beverage made using boiling black tea in water or milk along with a mixture of spices and herbs. Tea is a beverage made by pouring boiling water into the fresh leaves of Camellia sinensis. The key difference between chai and tea is that chai contains spices and herbs while tea does not.
The following infographic lists the differences between chai and tea in tabular form for side by side comparison
Summary – Chai vs Tea
Chai is a beverage made using boiling black tea in water or milk along with a mixture of spices and herbs. It contains spices like cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, ginger, cloves and black pepper. There are various ways to make chai tea. Based on the ingredients, the names change (ginger-Adrak chai, fennel seeds – Saunf wali chai). Green tea, white tea or blended tea can be used instead of black tea. Adding milk and sweeteners are optional. Tea is a beverage made by pouring boiling water into the fresh leaves of Camellia sinensis. This plant grows in many parts of the world. There are different kinds of tea such as black, white, green, oolong, matcha, purple, flavoured, mate, herbal and rooibos. Thus, this is the summary of the difference between chai and tea.