by Borderstan.com June 4, 2013 at 11:00 am 1 Comment

From Aparna Krishnamoorthy. Email her at aparna[AT]borderstan.com. Follow her on Twitter @aparnakris.


Chai, not your cup of tea? (Luis Gomez Photos)

Every time I walk into a coffee shop, it alarms me how many people are misinformed about the beverage commonly known as “chai.” I hope this little post helps to clear up some of that confusion.

Here’s the thing. It is actually pretty simple. Chai is tea. Chai is the Indian word for tea. Repeat that: CHAI MEANS TEA. When I read the words “chai tea” on a menu, I cringe. It’s like saying tea tea. We don’t say caffe coffee, do we?

I understand if we put this on packaging or even on the menu as a translation — chai/tea, but actually saying chai tea is plain redundant.

Feel free to call it tea, or chai, but please do not call it chai tea.

And a chai tea latte? That is just beyond control. Latte literally means milk. Chai is almost always made with milk. Chai is tea. Can you spot the redundancy here?

Chai does not have to have spices in it. In fact, in the majority of Indian homes, everyday chai is made with water, tea leaves, milk and sugar (optional).

It’s easy to deal with the word chai — it’s short and easy to pronounce. Otherwise, just say tea. Because that is all it is: tea.

Everyday Chai

  1. Heat 1 cup water in saucepan/kettle
  2. Bring to boil, turn down the heat and add 1 teaspoon tea leaves
  3. Simmer for a couple of minutes, add 1/8 cup milk and sweetener of choice.
  4. Turn up heat but do not boil.
  5. Strain into your favorite tea mug and enjoy.


  • Mint Chai – Tear 4-5 fresh mint leaves and add to water in Step 1. It is a refreshing change from the basic everyday chai.
  • Ginger Chai – Crush a couple small pieces of fresh ginger and add to water in Step 1. Perfect for days when the allergies are kicking in, or for that cold that won’t go away.
  • Masala Chai -My favorite blend includes 2 cardamom pods, 1 clove , a teensy bit of cinnamon and black peppercorns, all crushed together using a mortar and pestle and added to the boiling water.

I make chai. Lots of it. But never a chai tea.

Get an RSS Feed for all Borderstan stories or subscribe to Borderstan’s daily email newsletter.


Subscribe to our mailing list