Masala ChaiCredit: By Miansari66 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You may have heard people at your local coffee shop ordering a Chai tea instead of getting a coffee and if you're like me, you are wondering what the heck is chai. Well, I did the research for both of us.  

So what exactly is chai tea or masala chai tea?

     Chai pronounced (ch-eye) which rhymes with "thai" is a very popular spiced milky tea that originates from India.  The word chai is actually translated to "tea" in many asian and european languages.   It would be wrong though to say chai is just tea as it is the added combination of wonderful spices or the masala spice mixture, milk and sweetener that makes it chai. 

Let's break it down...   There are 4 main elements of chai tea and they are tea, spices, milk, and sweetener

1.  Let's start with the tea:

      You need a strong black tea to taste the tea flavors along side of the spices and sweeteners.  One of the favorites of India is Assam tea.   Assam tea is a malty strong tea which is also known as English/Irish breakfast tea.   Chai can be made with other teas as well, but this is the most highly recommended tea to use.

2.  Now let's discuss sweetener:

     This is totally optional, but if you so choose you can sweeten your chai tea with sugar or honey, or even syrup.   This is up to the individual.   It is thought that the sweeteners enhance the flavor of the spices.

3.  What about the milk?

     A necessary ingredient in my opinion.   Whole milk or condensed milk can be used, but for people not wanting to add milk they can substitute water.

4.  Last but not least, let's talk the spices:

      What type of spices are included in chai tea?   The typical spices you will typically find are cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, and pepper.   In addition to these spices less commonly you will find star anise, fennel seeds, coriander, peppercorn

Chai Tea ingredientsCredit: By Editor at Large [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

More information on spices used:


Made from the brown bark of the cinnamon tree 

Cinnamon(126936)Credit: Sam Mugraby, [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Made from a plant in the ginger family that has a small seed pod.

CardamomCredit: By Stephantom (de.wikipedia uploaded by Stephantom) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Made from dried unopened flowers from an evergreen tree.

ClovesCredit: By Jorge Barrios (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Made from the underground stem of the  ginger plant

Ginger(126941)Credit: By User:Nino Barbieri (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Star Anise:  

Made from the seed pod of an asian evergreen tree

Star AniseCredit: Wikimedia by MarkSweep

Fennel Seeds:

Made from the dried fruit from a plant in the parsley family

Fennel SeedsCredit: By Sanjay Acharya (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wi


Made from the seed of the coriander plant. 

Coriander(126944)Credit: By Novalis at en.wikipedia Later versions were uploaded by Consequencefree at en.wikipedia. ([1]) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons


The unripe fruit of the pepper plant

Peppercorns(126945)Credit: 'Piper nigrum'', greenish Copyright © 2007 David Monniaux {{self2|GFDL|cc-by-sa-2.0-fr}} Category:Photographs and images by David Monniaux


     Well there you have it, you now understand the 4 elements that make up a good chai tea.  I hope you benefit from the information presented here and have learned a bit more about chai tea.