Should you ask for chai or tea? In very broad and simple terms the difference between tea and chai is that tea is the drink made from loose leaves and enjoyed plain or with a spot of milk, while almost all chais use a strong CTC base which is balanced by the addition of milk and intensified in aroma and flavors by the addition of spices.

What is Chai Tea?

In India, the term ‘chai’ means tea. Since most Indians drink tea boiled with milk and sugar the word has become synonymous with milk tea. There are several variations and the names usually indicate the condiment used with the tea. When ginger is added, it’s Adrak Chai.  A ‘masala chai is a chai tea with milk and a hint of spices – cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon mostly. Saunf wali chai is the same milk tea flavored with fennel seeds. The main difference between chai and masala tea is the addition of spices. Chai is black tea and hot milk, while Masala tea will combine black tea, milk and a few spices.

With chai growing in popularity, Western tea drinkers have begun referring to milk tea as chai tea or chai latte. Latte is Italian for milk; café latte is a combination of espresso and milk similar to the French grand crème, the German Milchkaffee and the international cappuccino.

A chai latte is, therefore, a combination of tea and milk made by pouring a tea infusion into a glass of hot milk. Chai tea latte recipes use an infusion of black tea with spices like pepper, ginger, cloves, cardamom and star anise. For an Indian though, this recipe sounds very similar to the masala chai but perhaps, slightly unappealing too, as pouring the tea infusion into milk instead of boiling them all together is quite unheard of in these parts.

Meanwhile, with more Indians also choosing to drink more varieties of tea, besides chai, tea now is a broader term. It can refer to either black, green, white or even a blend. How it’s steeped and enjoyed is a personal preference – some prefer it with a little milk while others may choose to add lemon or sweeten with honey or sugar. Strong black teas accommodate milk easily while greens and whites are best drunk plain and unsweetened.

What is Chai Tea Good for?

Chai tea is a powerful blend of tea, herbs, and spices that has been cherished for centuries in India as a means of improving health and enhancing peace of mind. Two other important benefits of chai include enhancing the immune system and fighting inflammation.

Chai Tea vs Chai Latte – The difference

For most of you out there wondering if there is a difference between chai tea and chai latte, the answer is yes, there is. Chai tea is a loose-leaf style tea brewed in hot milk, usually with some honey or sugar to sweeten it up. While Chai lattes are often made with either a soluble powder or a syrup imitating a chai flavor. Chai latte is a lot sweeter than chai tea.

Chai Tea vs Green Tea

Although both green teas and chai teas contain tea leaves, the composition of these teas differ from each other. Green tea is made from relatively unprocessed tea leaves that have undergone minimal oxidation whereas chai is most commonly made from the more fermented and oxidized black tea leaves and contain spices such as cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.


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