UAE: Your daily karak chai habit has just got expensive

Karak tea lovers said they were unhappy with the price rise


Mazhar Farooqui

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram



Published: Sun 13 Feb 2022, 10:10 AM

Last updated: Tue 17 Jan 2023, 9:45 AM

It has not exactly caused a storm in a teacup, but it's undoubtedly got UAE residents talking. And not without reason - after more than 17 years, the cost of the ubiquitous karak chai has gone up from Dh1 to Dh1.50.

A variant of the traditional Indian tea, karak (strong) chai (tea), is made from loose black tea, condensed milk, sugar and a mix of spices.

The aromatic brew is a firm favourite with residents in the GCC, where many regard it as a cup of comfort.

But the cup that cheers has now become expensive.

KT file
KT file

In recent days, several cafeterias and restaurants in the UAE have hiked the price of the popular beverage by 50 per cent, citing rising costs of sugar and milk.

"Our profit margins had shrunk; we had no choice," said Khalid of Kouk Al Shay cafeteria, which has 60 outlets across the country.

"Only the price of the karak chai has increased by 50 fils. Prices of other items in our menu remain unchanged," said Khalid.

The owner of a drive-by tea shop in Karama, said he was forced to hike the price as he was struggling to break even.

"Karak chai is our best-seller, but you can't have it for Dh1 anymore. We raised its price to Dh1.50 as we had to factor in the rising costs of milk, sugar, tea and styrofoam cups," he said.

Bijoy of Tea for Time Cafeteria in Abu Dhabi said he is not increasing prices but contemplating reducing quantity instead.

"There is no other way out," he reasoned.

Prices, however, remain unchanged at Satwa Falcon, Bright Moon, Golden Tea Junction, among other cafeterias in Dubai, where a cup of karak chai still costs Dh1.

karak chai, karak tea, kadak tea, kadak chai
karak chai, karak tea, kadak tea, kadak chai

Karak prices at popular tea joints Filli Cafe (Dh5) and Al Hara Cafeteria (Dh1.50) remain unaffected.

Rajiv Meherish, co-founder Raju Omlet said they would stick to existing prices but not for long.

"Every cup of our cutting tea (Dh4.25) is made from fresh milk, which has suddenly become costlier. We're still in a stage in the pandemic where people are price sensitive. For now, we are not passing on the increased costs of ingredients, shipping and packing to our customers, but in order to survive in the market we may have to revise prices in the coming months," he said.


The owner of a curbside cafeteria in Ajman said he had kept the tea price at Dh 1 as he's not sure if his customers will tolerate the increase.

"They are mostly cab drivers and delivery bike riders. They come here for their karak fix several times a day. A 50 per cent increase will drive them away. That said, I don't think small cafeterias like us can hold off the hike for long."

KT file
KT file

Karak tea lovers said they were unhappy with the price rise. "What bothers me is not so much about the extra 50 fils as it is about the additional 50 per cent. It's not justified," said Rehan Ahmad, a sales representative from Karachi, Pakistan.

A clothing store owner in Meena Bazar said he might have to discontinue the practice of ordering tea for his staff and customers at regular intervals. "We are talking about anywhere between 100-120 cups daily. Do the maths," said the Indian.

The price of a cup of tea in the UAE was last revised in November 2004 when over 6,000 cafeterias and restaurants decided to sell it for Dh1, up from 50 fils previously. Before that, its price had remained constant for after almost 28 years.

Meanwhile, several tandoor owners in Dubai and Sharjah have increased the price of flatbreads from Dh1 to Dh1.25.


The owner of a tandoor in Sharjah said they couldn't afford to sell the bread at old rates. "We hiked the price last week," said the Afghan. "We have been selling it for Dh 1 apiece for several years even as prices of flour, electricity and gas continued to soar," he said.

A Pakistani baker in Al Quoz said they increased prices to remain in business. "The price of everything has gone up. Even a cup of tea costs 1.50," he said.

History of karak chai in the region

Karak chai, also known as chai karak or masala tea, came to the Gulf region via the Indian diaspora in the Sixties when oil was first discovered in the Middle East.

In ancient India, tea leaves were considered a medicinal herb. But that changed quickly in the inner century when the British introduced tea to the masses to overcome the monopoly of Chinese production.

In subsequent years, tea underwent several variations with people adding various spices to enhance its taste.

This aromatic creamy drink later became known as karak chai in the GCC. The basic recipe of the drink includes loose black tea leaves, milk, sugar and crushed cardamom powder.

Did you know

In 2018, Dubai brewed the world's largest cup of karak chai. The Guinness World Record breaking feat was accomplished at the Global Village when 5,000 litres of karak chai was prepared in a cup and served to almost 50,000 visitors.

The tea cup was 3.66 meters high and had a top inner diameter of 1.42 meters.

It surpassed the earlier record set for the biggest cup of tea in the world in Shanghai the previous year.

More news from UAE