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An image of an Iced Chai Latte made with instant masala chai concentrate.

Blended or served "on the rocks," this Iced Chai Latte is quick and easy to make.

Marko Goodwin
Definition: In North America, 'chai' usually refers to 'masala chai,' a type of spiced, milky tea from India and Pakistan. In North America, a 'chai' usually means a latte-like drink prepared with black tea, spices (such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves and black pepper), sugar (or another tea sweetener) and steamed or otherwise heated milk (or a milk alternative).

However, elsewhere in the world, ordering a 'chai' (rather than a 'masala chai,' or 'spice tea') can result in a totally different cup of tea. This is because 'chai' is the word for 'tea' in Hindi and many other languages in India and the surrounding countries. (Variations on the word 'chai' include the Nepalese word 'chia' and the Malayalam word 'chaiya.')

In India, 'chai' ranges from a cup of hot water and a black teabag to CTC tea or 'tea dust' (low-grade tea) that has been carefully boiled with milk, spices and jaggery (a type of sugar commonly used in parts of India). Each region of India has its own style of chai, and many chai wallahs (literally 'tea people' -- the chai vendors found in most Indian towns and cities) add their own flair when preparing and serving their chai.

In North America, chai spices are becoming popular flavors in tea chocolates and other confections, and the dirty chai is becoming a popular tea-espresso drink. Other North American variations on chai include iced chai and unconventionally flavored chai, like peppermint chai and chocolate chai.

For more information, see chai recipes, how to make masala chai from scratch, chai spices, masala chai history and words for tea around the world.
Also Known As: masala chai, chai tea, chai latte

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