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Chai vs. Tea: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 13, 2024
Chai is a spiced milk tea from India, while tea generally refers to the beverage made from steeping dried Camellia sinensis leaves in water.

Key Differences

Chai, traditionally from India, is a richly flavored beverage made with black tea, milk, sugar, and a blend of spices like cardamom and ginger. Tea, in contrast, can refer to any beverage made from the infusion of dried leaves, typically of the Camellia sinensis plant, in hot water.
The preparation of chai often involves boiling the tea with spices and milk, creating a hearty and aromatic drink. Tea, however, is usually prepared by steeping the dried leaves in hot water, offering a wide range of flavors from delicate to robust, depending on the type.
Chai is known for its distinct spice blend, which can include cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper, contributing to its unique taste. Tea, in its simplest form, is appreciated for the natural flavors of the tea leaves, ranging from floral to earthy notes.
In many parts of the world, "chai" specifically denotes the spiced milk tea, while "tea" can refer to a variety of beverages including green, black, white, and oolong teas.
The cultural significance of chai, deeply rooted in Indian society, reflects in its traditional serving in gatherings and homes. Tea, globally consumed, is integral to various cultures, from British tea time to Japanese tea ceremonies.

Comparison Chart


Global, originally China


Black tea, milk, sugar, spices
Tea leaves, typically without additives


Boiled with spices and milk
Steeped in hot water

Flavor Profile

Spiced, creamy, sweet
Ranges from delicate to robust

Cultural Significance

Central to Indian social gatherings
Varies globally, from casual to ceremonial

Chai and Tea Definitions


A spiced milk tea from India.
She savored the warm, comforting aroma of her morning chai.


Tea: Comes in various types like green, black, and oolong.
He preferred green tea for its antioxidant properties.


Usually involves boiling tea with milk.
She prepared chai by boiling it with milk and spices.


Tea: A beverage made by steeping dried Camellia sinensis leaves in hot water.
She relaxed in the evening with a cup of hot tea.


Traditionally includes spices like cardamom and cinnamon.
The chai was rich with the flavors of cinnamon and cardamom.


Tea: Often consumed for its flavor or health benefits.
He drank tea daily for its calming effect.


Often sweetened with sugar or honey.
He added honey to his chai for extra sweetness.


Tea: Can be served hot or cold.
On hot days, she enjoyed a refreshing glass of iced tea.


A popular beverage in Indian cuisine.
Chai is a staple in Indian households and tea stalls.


Tea: Integral to many cultural ceremonies worldwide.
The Japanese tea ceremony was an elegant display of tradition.


A beverage made from spiced black tea, milk, and sugar or honey.


An evergreen shrub or small tree (Camellia sinensis) native to Asia, having fragrant, nodding, cup-shaped white flowers and glossy leaves.


A female gypsy.


The young, dried leaves of this plant, prepared by various processes and used to make a beverage, usually served hot.


Ellipsis of masala chai, a beverage made with black teas, steamed milk and sweet spices, based loosely on Indian recipes.


(Judaism) A Jewish symbol representing life, traditionally worn as an amulet.


(winemaking) A place above ground for storing wine casks.


What are the different types of tea?

Types of tea include black, green, white, oolong, and herbal teas.

What does tea refer to?

Tea refers to a beverage made from steeping dried Camellia sinensis leaves in hot water.

Is chai always made with milk?

Chai is traditionally made with milk, but variations without milk exist.

What spices are commonly used in chai?

Common chai spices include cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.

What are the health benefits of tea?

Tea offers various health benefits, including antioxidants and calming effects.

How is chai typically sweetened?

Chai is typically sweetened with sugar or honey.

Is chai consumed outside of India?

Yes, chai has become popular worldwide, especially in chai latte forms.

What is chai?

Chai is a traditional Indian spiced milk tea.

What is the cultural significance of tea?

Tea holds significant cultural importance in many societies, such as in British, Chinese, and Japanese traditions.

Can tea be flavored or spiced?

Yes, tea can be flavored or spiced, though it's often enjoyed in its natural form.

Can chai be served cold?

Yes, chai can be served cold, often as an iced chai latte.

Can tea help with relaxation?

Yes, certain teas, like chamomile or herbal blends, are known for their relaxing properties.

Is all tea derived from the same plant?

Most tea types come from the Camellia sinensis plant, with variations in processing.

How is chai different from a chai latte?

A chai latte is a Western adaptation of chai, often lighter and made with steamed milk.

Does tea naturally contain sugar?

Tea does not naturally contain sugar; any sweetness is usually added.

What's the best time to drink chai?

Chai is often enjoyed in the morning or afternoon but can be drunk any time.

Is chai considered a dessert?

While not a dessert, chai's sweet and spicy profile can make it a satisfying after-meal drink.

What is the best way to brew tea?

The best way to brew tea varies by type, but generally involves steeping in hot water for a few minutes.

Are there caffeine-free versions of chai?

Yes, caffeine-free versions of chai can be made using decaffeinated black tea or herbal alternatives.

How long should tea leaves be steeped?

Steeping time varies by tea type, generally ranging from 2 to 5 minutes.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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