Tea, Tay and Cha’ – Worldwide Synonyms for the most popular flavored beverage.
So why does it seem that the whole world calls tea cha’ except for us and the Europeans? It seems like all of Asia calls tea “cha,” but that’s not necessarily true. The first major tea trades between Europeans and Asians took place in 1610 between the Dutch and the Chinese from the Fujian Provence. The Chinese dialect in that area descendant from Confucius pronounced the word tay. The cargo boxes were printed with t’e so the natural progression was to pronounce it as “tea”.
During the same time Portugal conducted their own trades close to Hong Kong. There they spoke in a Cantonese dialect where tea was cha’. The other way to get tea out of China was camel back through Russia so Russians call tea cha’. Finally, India calls tea cha’ but pronounces it as chai. Masala chai translates as spiced tea and is traditionally drunk as a sweetened milk tea. In this country chai is indicative of the sweet and creamy spicy tea.
Even though it might seem complicated to think that there are three names for the same beverage, it’s amazing that there are only three. After all, tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world only second to water.