The Many Names Of Tea

on August 08, 2022

What’s in a name? asked the beloved Bard.

That which we call tea by any other name would be just as sweet. In flavour and the little big things where it makes its presence felt – through friendship, hospitality, moments of inspiration, warmth and connection.

But to answer Shakespeare, there is a fascinating history associated with the name ‘tea’. Broadly, almost all cultures identify tea by two names: Te and Cha. How is that possible in a world with more than 7000 spoken languages?

Until the 15th Century C.E., tea was traded along the Silk Route that began in central & eastern China. It is believed that the type of Chinese spoken in the midland used the word ‘Cha’ for tea, andthis name travelled through the Silk Route. The countries of Central Asia, Middle East and Central Europe, which were connected by the Silk Route, thus adopted the word 'Cha’.

After the 15th Century, Europeans made contact with China via sea. Coastal regions of China spoke a different variant of Chinese where 'Te' was more popular. European traders started using the above term and brought tea to several parts of the Western world. Here, the term 'Te' began to be used, which later transformed into tea and its derivatives.

Here’s what tea is called around the world:

Chai or shai in countries like Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Iraq, Syria and others, as well as in Arabic-speaking African countries such as Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia etc.

Thé, te, té and tee in France, Italy, Spain and Germany, respectively. Eastern European countries use chai as the root word for tea. For instance, caj (pronounced as chai) in Albania, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

Te (pronounced as the) is the word for tea in Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, whereas tea and its derivations are used in England, Ireland, Hungary, Finland and Netherland.

Not surprisingly, many Asian countries adopted Cha and Te, depending on the historical trade routes that connected them to China. Cha or Chai is a popular name in India, Tibet, Russia, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan, whereas Teh or Tea is common in Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

Whichever part of the world you belong to, whether you call it chai, thé or tea, our favourite beverage evokes the same emotions in all of us. It is that of calm, happiness, and comfort.

Is there a different name for tea in your part of the world? Let us know by commenting below or write to us at