Battle of The Chai: What is the Difference Between Irani Chai vs Masala Chai?

Irani Chai vs Masala Chai - One Cup of Chai

You’re likely familiar with the beloved spiced milk tea known as masala chai, a staple in Indian cuisine and culture. However, have you encountered its rich, decadent cousin – the Irani chai? While they share some similarities, these two varieties of chai have distinct flavours and preparation methods that set them apart.

Masala chai, with its origins tracing back thousands of years in India, is a harmonious blend of black tea, milk, and a medley of spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. The ingredients are simmered together, allowing the flavours to meld seamlessly.

On the other hand, Irani Chai was introduced to India by Iranian immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries. It’s a unique adaptation of the traditional masala chai, reflecting the culinary influences of the Iranian settlers. The preparation process is what truly distinguishes Irani chai from its counterpart.

In the case of Irani chai, the milk is boiled and thickened separately, often using creamier buffalo milk or reducing it to a luscious consistency. The tea and spices are steeped independently, extracting a more potent and aromatic blend of flavors. Only when ready to serve is the thick, velvety milk combined with the spiced tea concoction. This method results in an Irani chai that is richer, creamier, and more robustly spiced compared to the more delicate balance found in masala chai. The spices truly shine through, enveloping the palate with their warmth and complexity.

While both chais are undoubtedly delightful, their distinct preparation techniques and nuanced flavours offer unique experiences for the discerning chai enthusiast. Perhaps we could explore these differences together over a steaming cup of each variety soon?

Main Differences Between Irani Chai and Masala Chai

The main differences between Irani chai and masala chai are:

  1. Origin: Masala chai originated in India and has been consumed there for thousands of years. Irani chai was introduced to India by Iranian settlers in the 19th-20th centuries who adapted the local masala chai to their own tastes.
  2. Preparation: In masala chai, the spices, tea and milk are simmered together in one pot. For Irani chai, the milk is boiled and thickened separately from the tea and spices, and only combined when serving.
  3. Milk: Irani chai traditionally uses thicker, creamier milk, often from buffaloes or reduced to a thicker consistency. Masala chai more commonly uses regular cow’s milk.
  4. Spices: While the spices are similar, Irani chai has a stronger, more prominent spice flavour compared to masala chai because the spices are steeped separately from the milk, extracting more flavour.
  5. Consistency: The separate boiling of milk makes Irani chai thicker and creamier compared to the thinner consistency of regular masala chai where everything is simmered together.
  6. Sweetness: Irani chai tends to be sweeter than masala chai. The thick, reduced milk provides a natural sweetness.

So in summary, while both are spiced milk teas, Irani chai has a richer, creamier consistency and more pronounced spice flavour compared to standard masala chai, primarily due to the different preparation techniques. But the spice blends and ingredients are quite similar overall.

While both chais have their own unique charms, Irani chai offers a decadent, robustly spiced experience, while masala chai is a more balanced, subtly flavoured beverage. Trying both allows one to appreciate the nuances that regional influences and preparation techniques can bring to this beloved spiced tea.

FAQ: Irani Chai vs Masala Chai

What is the main difference between Irani chai and masala chai?

The main difference lies in the preparation method. Irani chai is made by boiling the milk and tea decoction separately in two different pots, while masala chai is made by simmering the tea leaves/powder, spices, milk and water together in the same pot.

What spices are used in each type of chai?

Both use similar spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. However, Irani chai sometimes uses additional spices like nutmeg in its spice blend.

How do the flavours differ?

Due to the separate boiling of milk and tea decoction, Irani chai develops a more pronounced, richer flavour compared to the relatively more subdued flavours of masala chai where the milk is added during the steeping process.

What type of milk is traditionally used?

Masala chai typically uses regular cow’s milk, while Irani chai traditionally uses buffalo milk or khoya/mawa (solidified milk solids) to achieve a thicker, creamier texture.

Which one is easier to find?

Masala chai is very popular worldwide and can be easily found in cafes and restaurants across many countries. Authentic Irani chai is harder to find outside of India, particularly the Hyderabad region where it originated.

Are there any regional variations?

Yes, there are regional variations of masala chai across different parts of India that use local spice blends and varying milk-to-water ratios. Irani chai is most closely associated with the Hyderabadi style from the city of Hyderabad.

How should each be served?

Masala chai can be served in regular cups or mugs. Irani chai is traditionally served in small ceramic cups along with accompaniments like osmania biscuits.

Further Reading and Citations

  1. “Masala vs. Irani Chai: What’s the Difference?”, Yahoo News Canada. Available at:
  2. “Masala vs. Irani Chai: Understanding the Distinction”, Tasting Table. Available at:
  3. “Know All About Masala Chai: Benefits and How to Make”, Tea Culture of the World. Available at:
  4. “Masala vs. Irani Chai: What’s the Distinction?”, Tasting Table. Available at:
  5. “Irani Chai Recipe”, Times of India. Available at:
  6. “Irani Chai: Taste of Persia in Hyderabad”, Times of India. Available at:
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