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chai vs tea

Chai vs Tea: Are They The Same?

Are you feeling confused if Chai and Tea are the same things? Do you wonder if the words are interchangeable or what the difference is? While both terms describe a similar beverage, their differences make them stand out. Read on and discover how to tell the difference between these two popular terms. 

What is Chai?

Chai is an Indian word that means “tea.” We think make a cup of Chai is the perfect addition to a daily self-care ritual. While in other countries, we regard it as a sub-style of tea, globally Chai stands independently from other flavor profiles.

Monks Chai tea

The main distinguishing factor about Chai is the unique blend of spices and aroma in every cup. The original base is cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and cloves. In India, if fennel seeds are added to this original recipe, then it is called Saunf wali chai.

To understand more about chai, read our post "What is chai?" here

What is Tea?

Tea is the second most popular beverage in the entire world. A cup of tea can be found across several cultures and countries yet with unique qualities and individual flair. For this article, we are referring to tea as either black, green, or herbal beverage derived from the camellia sinensis plant.


The camellia sinensis plant is the root for black, white, and oolong tea. Unlike Chai, a standard cup of tea does not require any milk to be complete and can come in a range of flavors and bitterness.

See more: What is Karak Chai?

Explore Chai vs Tea History’s 

With so many similarities between Chai and a cup of tea, let us go back in time and review the origins of both drinks. 

The Origins Of Black Tea

The first cup of tea was a complete accident. In 2737 BC, a Chinese emperor, Shen Nung, was enjoying the sunshine under the shade of a tree. As he waited for his helper to boil him some water, a few leaves from the tree above fell into the boiling water. It just so happened that the tree above the emperor was a camellia sinensis, and he was hooked on the flavor of this new beverage. 

The tea beverage slowly navigated its way into Europe from workers based in Asia and then returning to their home residence. It wasn’t until the marriage of King Charles II to Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza that tea in the UK became fashionable. The Portuguese princess was used to drinking tea daily, and the royal UK court began incorporating the ritual to make her comfortable in court. The first major shipment of imported tea to Britain arrived in 1664 and was 100 lbs of Chinese tea leaves from Java.

Read more: A brief history of Chai

The Origins Of Chai vs Tea

While cups of tea have only been fashionable in the UK and Europe for under 400 years, the origins of Chai date back over 5,000 years. The first cup of Chai is recorded as being served to a King in India several centuries ago. He had requested that his team make him a beverage to help him stay alert in long meetings. The original beverage did not include caffeine or milk but focused on natural ingredients for stimulation. They included using ginger and black pepper, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon. 

When European colonists arrived in India, they brought their sacred tea leaves, and the Indian population combined this with milk into their already popular Chai beverage. This evolution made the tea caffeinated and many found the addition of milk soothing.

See more: Tea production by countries

What Is The Difference In Preparation of Chai vs Tea?

We can see the similarities in origins and popularity between Chai and tea leaves, but let us look at the unique preparation methods for both. 

How To Prepare A Cup Of Chai vs Tea

Unless you are buying Monk’s Speciality Chai to make at home then the joy of preparing Chai also involves sourcing and chopping several natural ingredients. Purchasing a prepared mixture from Monk’s Chai will save time and be more efficient, but we always recommend trying to make Chai at home once. The spices used in the below recipe are four cardamom pods, smashed, one small cinnamon stick, ¼ of fresh ginger, and up to ten fennel seeds. 

Here’s a simple recipe to make Chai at home:

  1. Bring water, milk, and spices to a simmer in a small saucepan on the stove (adding the spices from the start gives them plenty of time to infuse).
  2. Reduce heat and add a pinch of loose-leaf black tea.
  3. Wait for the Chai to steep at extremely low or zero heat. If it continues to boil at this point the tea will release too many tannins and turn bitter. 
  4. Strain the warm spiced mixture into a mug; this will hold back the whole spices and tea leaves.
  5. Stir sugar if desired to sweeten the Chai and enjoy!

How To Prepare A Cup Of Tea

Making the perfect cup of tea is a lot easier than the process of creating Chai, mainly because it involves steeping a single tea bag. Select a tea bag (black, green, herbal, oolong) and place it into your favorite mug. Add boiling water and let the tea bag steep for up to 3 minutes. If the tea has reached a desired consistency remove the bag and add milk, sugar, or honey, depending on your preference. 

Chai vs Tea: Which One Has A Higher Nutritional Value?

When it comes to a cup of tea or chai, neither has a nutritional value, any calories will come from the addition of milk and sugars into the cup. It is estimated that a standard cup (12oz) of Chai will contain 125 calories, 25 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fat, 3 grams of protein, and 1 gram of fiber. The same serving of black tea with no milk added is estimated to have 2.4 calories, 0.4 carbs, 0 fats, and .1 serving of fibre.

Read more: The chai benefits for your health

How Does Chai vs Tea Cultures Compare Globally?

Now that we understand the difference between Chai and tea, let's take a look at two other tea communities across the globe!

Japan And Matcha

The tea ceremony in Japan is stunning to witness, putting emphasis on mindfulness and grinding the matcha to a prestigious level. If you ever have the chance to sit in a traditional Japanese tea house, we recommend the full immersive experience!

Morocco And Mint

In Morocco, the traditional mint tea is called Maghreb. You can find several shops to sit and enjoy a refreshing glass of mint tea and admire the beautiful teapots. In a traditional Maghreb sitting, you will be served three cups to signify life, love, and death. 


Melbourne has several places where chai lovers and enthusiasts can enjoy or buy ingredients to brew Chai at home. Look no further than Monk’s Chai for the best organic chai in Melbourne.

Monk’s Chai only uses organic ingredients, including Assam black tea, fresh Keralan ginger, pure Ceylon cinnamon, cardamom, and pimento. We source ethically grown and sustainably produced spices that encourage our community to thrive. We encourage you to begin the at-home comparison today!

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