Home News/PR A Cup of Tradition: Exploring the Chai Karak Craze in the GCC

A Cup of Tradition: Exploring the Chai Karak Craze in the GCC

by Food Drinks Innovation

Chai Karak, a strongly brewed spiced tea with milk, has roots in the Indian subcontinent but has become a beloved staple in the GCC countries. The tea, known for its robust flavor, was introduced to the region by Indian expatriates in the 1960s during the oil boom. This period marked significant migration from India to the GCC, which brought cultural exchanges, including culinary traditions like Chai Karak.

Cultural Integration and Adaptation

Once introduced, Chai Karak quickly adapted to local tastes across the GCC. In places like Qatar and the UAE, the recipe was modified to appeal to local palates, which generally prefer less spice than the traditional Indian version. The basic ingredients—black tea, milk, and sugar—remained, but the preparation method and spice mix varied slightly to become what many in the GCC now consider their own cultural staple.

In the UAE, Chai Karak is more than just a beverage; it’s a symbol of hospitality that transcends borders within the GCC, from Ras Al Khaimah to Muscat. The ubiquity of karak shops, often indicated by long lines of cars at small cafeterias, highlights its integral role in everyday life and its cultural significance as a unifying comfort drink​.

Rising Popularity and Social Significance

Chai Karak is more than just a drink; it’s a significant part of social life in the GCC. It is commonly consumed during social gatherings, in homes, and at specialized Karak cafes that have proliferated across the region. The drink symbolizes hospitality and is often enjoyed multiple times throughout the day, becoming a comforting routine for many locals and expatriates alike.

Chai Karak is deeply ingrained in the UAE’s social fabric. It’s common to see people from all walks of life, from young locals showing off their cars to lorry drivers seeking a pre-dawn pick-me-up, gathering around karak stalls. The drink’s role extends to all social occasions, be it weddings or office gatherings, illustrating its importance across various facets of Emirati life.

Current Trends and Innovations

Innovative ventures like Dubai’s Project Chaiwala highlight the evolving nature of chai karak consumption. By mimicking the South Asian street tea experience and adding their unique twist to the drink, these modern chaiwalas are not only serving tea but are also crafting an experience that bridges cultural divides and caters to a cosmopolitan clientele​

Today, the popularity of Chai Karak continues to grow, not just within the GCC but also internationally. Innovations in recipes and presentations are also helping to keep the tradition alive and appealing to younger generations. For instance, some cafes now offer variations like saffron Karak or iced Karak, catering to diverse tastes and preferences.

Chai Karak exemplifies cultural fusion, blending Indian tea traditions with Arabian preferences. This cross-cultural adoption has also led to innovation in how the tea is served, with variations like adding saffron or serving it iced becoming popular. Entrepreneurs like DJ Bliss in Dubai have even celebrated Chai Karak through music, underscoring its cultural resonance and widespread appeal​


Chai Karak in the GCC is a perfect example of how traditional foods can evolve and integrate into new cultures, creating a new heritage that bridges the gap between the old and the new. As this drink continues to be a part of daily life and special occasions alike, it remains a symbol of the rich cultural tapestry that defines the Gulf region. This enduring popularity underscores not just a taste preference, but a deep cultural connection that resonates with both locals and expatriates in the GCC.

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