Why you sound like an idiot when you say “Chai Tea”

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In the last few years ‘Chai’ has boomed. It has been branded, packaged and sold in almost all food or health stores. With confidence, it can also be said that most coffee shops in South Africa offer a delicious Chai Latte. Consequently, the phrase “Chai Tea” now roles off the Western tongue.

The reality is that Chai MEANS ‘Tea’. So when the phrase “Chai Tea” is used it’s actually like saying “tea tea anyone?”.

But no judgement here! I, too, only found this out recently. To make matters worse, I would always buy Chai and avoid Masala Chai lest it taste ‘funky’.

Well, Masala just means ‘spice’. Directly translated “Masala Chai” means ‘spicy tea’, which is precisely what it is!

Traditionally, black tea was not part of an Indian diet but was viewed as medicine. This was until 1830, when the British noticed the Assamese tea plants and began to cultivate tea in India and Sri Lanka. However, plain black tea was not satisfactory to the Indian palate, and so, familiar spices were added to the brew, which led to the culturally inspired ‘Masala Chai’.

Chai Tea

What is in Chai?

It has become tradition that each family has their own unique recipe for Masala Chai and, in general, the formulas will contain a compilation of these ingredients:


Zingiber officinale

Ginger is used for; poor circulation (as it causes vasodilation), sweating, cardiac disorders, arthritis, lungs, colds and coughs, colic, nausea, motion sickness, flatulence, griping and menstrual cramping.

Cinamomum officinalis

This herb is restorative to a weak digestive system, especially in debility and convalescence. It is warming and can relieve diarrhea, aching muscles and viral conditions.

Black pepper

Piper Nigrum

Relieves hypometabolic or atrophic conditions of the whole body. It stimulates the digestive functions when there is flatulence, distention or anorexia.


Foeniculum vulgare

Fennel is one of the best herbs for relieving gas and bloating. It also stimulates the appetite, act as a diuretic and is anti-inflammatory.
Star anise

Illicium verum

In Chinese culture it use it as a remedy for rheumatism, back pain and hernias. It is a stimulant, diuretic and digestive aid. Star anise is also used for toothache.

Myristica fragrans

Nutmeg increases appetite and reduces nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. In India it is believed to increase sexual stamina.

Elletaria cardamomum

Cardamom is used to relieve indigestion, flatulence and cramps. It has a reputation as an aphrodisiac and is used for bad breath. It is a light, heady herb.

Vanilla planifolia

Vanilla is said to increase libido and it can also be used topically on acne, burns, cuts and wounds. It is said to improve the mood and may be useful in depression and anxiety.

Syzigium aromaticum

In SouthEast Asia, clove has been considered a panacea for all ailments. It eliminates parasites and is antiseptic and It is used for digestive disorders. It helps prepare for childbirth.

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