‘Chai Tea’ isn’t a Thing

Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or a tea devotee, nobody wants to be wrong when it comes to terminology. So why do we continue to order “chai tea?” In today’s coffee shops, ordering a chai tea or a chai tea latte will usually get you a spiced tea drink sometimes completed with steamed milk.

But the name of this highly popular drink is a slight redundancy. Chai, which originates from the Indo-Persian, “chay,” which in turn originates from the Chinese “cha,” is a root word that has, for centuries, simply meant tea. So each time we order chai tea, we’re just ordering tea tea.

Our guess is that the name isn’t going to change anytime soon. Perhaps we’ve even made a new meaning for the word chai, referring specifically to the spiced quality of the delicious beverage. However, if you want to get technical, the word that is used in chai-drinking countries to describe a spice mixture is masala, and thusly, all chai tea lattes in India are known as masala chai. Either way, it’s nice to know what we’re drinking.


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