What exactly is 'Chai Tea'? Is Chai a type of tea, a generic word for a spicy tea, or is the word 'chai' meant to describe a flavor all its own?
Actually, the word 'chai' originated in South Asia and literally means 'tea'. Throughout the world the word 'chai' still simply means 'tea', while in the United States, Chai (with a capital 'C'), is used synonymously with the phrase 'spiced tea'. So, is there a good explanation for this meaning alteration or did we Americans decide to just do things our own way like we have with measurements and so many other things?
The best explanation for the American use of the phrase 'Chai tea' comes from the Masala region of India. In Masala, tea or 'chai', is flavored with many Indian spices. The tea from Masala is naturally known as Masala Chai or 'tea from Masala'. During the early 1800's when Britain began cultivating tea plantations throughout India to break-up the Chinese strong-hold on tea, Masala Chai became very popular. So popular, that the very act of adding spices to a tea is now known in the US as 'Chai', short for 'Masala Chai'.
At California Tea House, we don't fight the common nomenclature. We have embraced and encourage the American culture of tea and even created a few Chai's (spiced teas) of our own.
If you're a Chai fan, here are a few tea blends that you must try: