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The History Of Chai

The History Of Chai

Chai, a drink almost all Americans know and love to some degree. What the masses know as Chai is a different form than when it originated thousands of years ago. But before we jump into the history behind it, let’s look at the name. In the Hindi language, Chai translates into the word “tea”. Bet you didn’t know that. Essentially when anyone orders a chai tea they are really ordering a “tea tea”. In Chai’s birthplace of India it is known as Masala Chai, which when translated means “spiced tea”. This version of the name makes more sense, providing the masses with a literal description of what they are consuming. Now that you have a little knowledge of Chai, let’s jump right into its history!

There is no definitive timeline of when Chai originated as the folklore surrounding it dates back to between 5,000 and 9,000 years ago. It is believed to have been created by a King in India as a way to help with ailments, making it an ayurvedic beverage. There was no one right or wrong way to create Chai, with many recipes being utilized during that time period. But it did not contain the most important ingredient till the 1930s, black tea.

In the 1830s the British began to set up tea plantations in Assam, India. This is when we begin to see the early arrival of Chai as we know it today. A combination of black tea, spices, milk, and sweetener became Masala Chai. The only downside to this creation was that tea was primarily an export for the British and was too expensive for most Indian people in the Assam region. High-quality whole-leaf tea otherwise known as “orthodox” tea was what the British exclusively drank as it was the most expensive form of tea during this time period. With a push from the British owned Indian Tea Association in the 1900s, Indian tea consumption grew in popularity with the locals. The masses were drinking CTC tea, otherwise known as Crush Tear Curl. The CTC method produced a lower grade, strong in flavor, and quick brewing tea. Though CTC might be seen as a lower quality tea it was just the right one for a sweet, creamy, spiced drink like Masala Chai.

As Chai continued to evolve and change it became increasingly popular regardless of status or wealth. With the growth of mechanical tea production making black tea more affordable, CTC Masala Chai remains popular in India and grew in popularity all over the world. In the United States for example iced Chai tea lattes and a drink named a dirty chai have become commonplace in most US coffee and tea shops. With this growing popularity in the US more tea aficionados are enjoying high grade loose leaf Masala Chai, enhancing the experience even further with this delightful beverage.

Want To Try A Cup Of Chai For Yourself?

Visit our website and browse through our unique Selection of Chai available online or in store at one of our four tea rooms.