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Plain chai Edit
By itself, chai or cha is merely the generic word for "tea" in much of South Asia (Hindi: चाय cāy, Urdu: چاۓ cāy, Marathi: चहा cahā, Gujarati ચા chā, Bengali: চা cha) and many other parts of the world. (For the etymology of chai and related words see Etymology and cognates of tea.) However, for many English speakers who refer to ordinary tea as "tea", the word "chai" has come to imply "masala chai".
Although coffee is a more popular beverage in some southern parts of India, tea is ubiquitous throughout South Asia, where street vendors called "chai wallahs" (sometimes spelled "chaiwalas") are a common sight. Such examples of chaiwallahs are found in the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Chai is also a popular item in the genre of South Asian restaurants known as Irani cafés or Chai Khanas.
The traditional brewing process boils or simmers the tea leaves over sustained heat, instead of steeping them in preheated water as it cools down. For more information about international preparation methods and consumption patterns, see Tea culture.
Spiced tea Edit
For many English speakers outside those regions, the term "chai" is synonymous with masala chai, as further described below. The pleonasm chai tea is sometimes used to indicate spiced milk tea as distinct from other types of tea. Numerous coffee houses use the term chai latte for their version to indicate that the steamed milk of a normal caffè latte is being flavored with a spiced tea concentrate instead of with espresso, without necessarily implying the addition of coffee (though also see the Western "chai" modifications at the end of the article). Some coffeehouses and brand names refer to their product as chai tea latte.
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