Indian Masala Chai Ranks Second In The World’s Top Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Testament to the enduring appeal of what’s a feel-good daily staple in many South Asian households around the world. 

Masala chai

Masala chai has been named the second best non-alcoholic drink in the world, and well… of course it has! 

Popular global food guide, TasteAtlas, announced earlier this week that India’s beloved beverage was number two on its ‘Top non-alcoholic drinks’ list as part of its 2023-24 awards. Coming just behind Mexico's Aguas Frescas, masala chai landing the impressive ranking is testament to the enduring appeal of what’s a feel-good daily staple in many South Asian households around the world. 

But it’s also a lot more than that. Masala chai, which can differ in taste thanks to variations in masala mix recipes, evokes feelings of warmth, nostalgia, comfort and security. You can count on your grandma having freshly brewed it when you visit on a Sunday afternoon. It’s the boiling hot cup of goodness poured outside temples. It’s the livelihood of chaiwallas, and the symbol of hospitality and goodwill no matter who it's served to. 

TasteAtlas reported that “the origin of chai masala is mostly associated with the British tea trade. In the 19th century, the Chinese had a monopoly on the tea trade, and the British looked for other markets that would fulfill the high demand for black tea—which was a firm European favorite.

“Their quest brought them to India, where they started to set up tea plantations. It is believed that chai masala first appeared during that period, but it only became a popular option in the 20th century when the Indian Tea Association promoted tea breaks as a much-needed refreshment for workers and when tea became more affordable.”  

We also know that India’s chai culture can be tied back even further to prehistoric times when ayurvedic and herbal infusions of hot water and spices were used.

This week’s news about masala chai has unsurprisingly garnered plenty of reactions. 

“Masala chai is not a beverage, it is an emotion,” one person wrote on Instagram. 

“Loving the recognition our humble masala chai is getting on the global stage!” another tweeted. 

On the other hand, others were quick to point out to TasteAtlas that them listing the drink as “Chai Masala” is simply not correct.

“It’s Masala Chai, not Chai Masala. Chai Masala literally means the spices that you put in the tea. Masala Chai means spiced tea,” wrote on Instagram user, while another echoed, “It’s called masala chai, in that order not ‘chai masala’. The chai masala is the actual mix that we make in order to prepare the tea”. 

On that note, it's just about chai time. We're off to grab our next cup.