UAE: From karak to biryani and disco; 5 types of tea you will find in Dubai

How these cuppas got their colourful names and why every resident must try them at least once


SM Ayaz Zakir

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Published: Sun 11 Jun 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 14 Jun 2023, 2:50 PM

Dubai truly proved to be a haven for tea lovers, and the city is offering array of flavours and blends catering to every taste. As a tea enthusiast, I have had the opportunity to embark on a delightful journey of discovering the diverse range of teas available in Dubai.

All I was familiar to was the infamous ‘karak’, which has been popular beverage in GCC countries since my growing days here. Every household in Dubai is always equipped with the condensed milk. Earlier the only name we knew was ‘Rainbow milk’. But now there are hundreds of brands that has come up.


Karak may be one of the most used words in the country. One will find residents using this word on every street, home and offices. I remember an incident where a tourist found it difficult to understand what karak was. This tourist from the UK ordered tea at a joint in Al Ghubaiba. “You mean, karak,” asked the boy at the counter.

“I just need a plain tea,” said the tourist, unable to understand what the teaboy meant. I had to invade their conversation and explain to him about different types of tea and what are they called in this part of the world.

“Is tea called karak in Arabic?” asked the tourist.

I explained to him what a karak means. “It’s the Indian term 'kadak’, which is used to describe a robustly brewed cup of tea.”

I told him that people of every stature consume this drink, from a billionaire to everyone on the streets.

Samowar chai

I have a habit of consuming a cup of tea or a coffee while on my way to the office. Last year, as I was on my way to my car, I ordered a fresh milk tea. It tasted completely different from the normal tea. I could feel that I had tasted it somewhere, but couldn’t recollect.

On my inquiry, the waiter of the restaurant said it is prepared differently. When he showed me the vessel it is made in, I was surprised about such a setup in the UAE.

The first time I had this specially prepared tea was at a hill station in India. The taste had been lingering on my tongue for days. I was delighted to learn that the cafeteria where I often got my dose of morning and evening tea offers this special tea.

Biryani chai

In the year 2017, I had an opportunity to meet my school friends in Dubai. We all gathered in Karama and as it was a weekday evening, the point of the meeting was decided at a parking, which is commonly known as Hara café.

As we parked our car, Raees, a friend of mine told the tea boy: “Please bring five biryani.”

This name is as confusing as the ingredients in the tea. But the taste of the tea was just mind-blowing and the taste captivated my taste buds.

Biryani chai is a must-try as it is a true fusion delight. As I took my first sip, the tantalising blend of savoury and sweet flavours danced on my taste buds, offering a refreshing twist on traditional tea.

It’s a mixture that combines the essence of flavourful ginger with the comforting notes of tea. A tea bag is dipped in a cup of hot water, finely chopped ginger, honey, and a squeeze of lemon, and garnished with fresh mint leaves.


Disco chai

The moment I heard this name, all I could Imagine was colourful hot water tasting like tea. But when I received it in my hand, the first look made no difference in comparison to a normal milk tea.

The moment I took the first sip, it took me on a different ‘chai’ journey.

If I could review it, it’s combining the old charm of traditional tea with a modern twist. Disco tea is a vibrant and flavourful creation. This fresh milk tea is infused with fragrant cardamom and a blend of secret spices. The result is a mixture of flavours that tempts the senses and leaves you craving for more.

Doctor chai

When I first heard this name from the tea boy of Hara café in Karama, I asked him: “Do only doctors drink this tea?”

“It has got its name because of the ingredients used. Many medicinal herbs are used in this tea and that is the reason we call it Doctor chai,” he replied.

It is the ultimate refreshing brew. It starts with hot water fused with mint leaves, complemented by circular slices of lemon and a hint of sweetness from sugar. “Many secret ingredients are then added to it,” said the boy who offered us the tea.

The tea bag is then gently dipped, which releases its essence.

In addition to these remarkable teas, I also had the pleasure of sampling other unique beverages such as Chukku coffee, with its blend of spices and medicinal benefits, and Bombay chai, which transported me to the bustling streets of Mumbai with its aromatic blend of spices.

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