Chai, or masala chai (‘spiced tea’ in Hindi) may be a fairly recent arrival in Britain, but it follows an old formula in India, where they have been drinking infusions of spices as health tonics for thousands of years. When tea drinking took off in India back in Victorian times, it was only natural to throw these spices into the mix.
The rest is a tale of colonisation in reverse. The British Raj promoted tea as an everyday drink for working Indians, but Indian tea sellers drenched it in milk and sugar and added their age-old blends of spices. Masala chai not only outlived the British presence in India – in the last few decades it has caught on back in Blighty and all over the world.