Karak Chai, an aromatic beverage steeped in history and culture, originates from Desi Chai recipes brought to the Middle East by immigrant communities in the 20th century.
With a robust flavour derived from strong black tea, cardamom, and condensed milk, it's more than just a drink.
Karak Chai Flavour Profile
Creamy, Sweet and Indulgent
What is Karak Chai?
Karak, derived from the desi word 'kadak', means 'strong'. Therefore, karak chai literally translates to 'strong tea' and is traditionally brewed with more tea and less spices compared to other styles of chai.
This strong tea is usually balanced with sweeter and creamier flavours (particularly when compared to a masala chai) by adding plenty of sugar, milk, cream or condensed milk, and is one of the most popular drinks in the Persian Gulf. The tea should have a sharp flavour to cuts through the milky richness to create a well-rounded drinking experience.
Kadak chai is associated with a classic desi chai, closely resembling those found on roadside stalls and trains in India. The simple, but perfectly balanced components of this chai are so appealing that the flavours have traversed the continent to resurface as 'karak' chai, a drink that has become a way of life in its own right in the Middle East.
Karak Chai Spices
Sweet, aromatic & flavourful
Antioxidising, sweet & spicy
The beauty of Karak Chai is in its simplicity. It achieves so much with just one key spice, cardamom, to compliment the strong tea. But chaiwallas in both India, and the Middle East, have experimented with adding new ingredients such as cinnamon, ginger and saffron that create a beautiful flavour too.
At Chai Guys we did countless experiments and found that adding a little bit of cinnamon to the cardamom in our Karak Chai created a decadent, creamy, smooth and nutty beverage.
The origins of karak chai
Karak Chai owes its origins to British colonialism and Indian culinary traditions. The British East India Company, seeking to break China's monopoly on tea, established plantations in India in the 19th century. As tea became accessible in India, chaiwallas started adding locally sourced spices, milk and sugar, leading to the first variations of Chai.
Karak Chai was first brought to the Persian Gulf by the skilled Indian chaiwallas who travelled there in search of work in the 1960s. These migrant workers brought with them the classic Desi Chai recipes which were made with a sharp tea flavour and rich in cardamom. This was the first time a strong tea was brewed in this fashion in the Gulf States.
The wonders of 'Kadak' Chai (pronounced with a tongue roll on the 'd') were quickly realised by locals in the Gulf States who adopted it as 'Karak' Chai, a drink to symbolise camaraderie, hospitality and home. The modern day drink - whether pronounced with an 'r' or a 'd' - is now enjoyed from upscale cafes in Dubai to small tea stalls in Doha and roadside 'dhabas' in Karachi.
Karak chai vs kadak chai
Kadak or karak? It turns out it's actually the same thing. It's all in the pronunciation. In the Middle East, the 'r' lends well to the way they speak and the 'd' works for India. For our customers coming to us for karak chai, but feeling worried about our spelling (we spell it with a 'd') rest assured you're getting an authentic 'Karak' you will know from home.Shop chai guys karak chai
Chai Guys Karak Chai
"Probably the best chai you can buy"
Lovingly crafted by our London based chaiwalas, our Karak Chai stays true to recipes formulated from the minds of the very first chai merchants of India; a rich blend of milk, tea and sugar, infused with the minty/menthol overtones of cardamom, with a hint of cinnamon added for sweetness.Shop our karak chai
How to make karak chai
Authentic karak chai is cooked with fresh spices and tea to create a deliciously creamy hot beverage. Chai Guys' karak chai recipe uses cardamom and cinnamon sourced from single-origin farms, and tea from our partner estate in Assam.
To make Chai Guys karak chai at home, simply mix two tablespoons of our karak chai blend with 1.5 cups of water and 1.5 cups of milk, bring to a boil on the hob and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Then simply strain into a cup and add your sweetener of choice - we recommend 2 teaspoons per cup.
Click here for more instructions on how to make chai.