Tea Cultures in India


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The Tea Culture Of India

“Tea- the cups that cheer but not inebriate.”
                                           -William Cowper

Grown up in India, every person is familiar with the drink “chai” which means tea in English. The word “chai” originates from the Chinese word “cha” which also means tea. In India, chai is way beyond just a cup of tea. It holds emotion, from being a companion during monsoon solace to being a moderator during friendly debates - there is so much to share over a cup of chai.

Chai - A drink that unifies diversities into one

Being the most pervasive drink in India, it carries a long history of origin and has affected the culture of Indians in the most invincible way possible.
In ancient times, chai was not the term used for tea in India. More willingly than a leisure drink, it was served for medicinal purposes and it was referred to as Kada. In the light of this, Kada was not made from tea leaves but only herbs and spices. Centuries later they started adding tea leaves in Kada. Even today when the Chai is brewed for a longer time than usual using herbs and spices it is called kada, Which is used for treating cold, congestion, headache etc.

The Chai By Accident

Spinning the yarn, the tea is said to be an invention by accident. 5000 years ago, the Emperor of China Shennong discovered tea when he found tea leaves in his pot of boiling water. Known for his curious nature, Emperor Shennong proceeded to taste the drink. Upon tasting it, he happened to like the drink and therefore, tea became a staple in China.

But how did it travel to India?

A Buddhist monk on his way to China saw few people chewing a certain variant of wild leaves. On asking the locals, he found out that it was customary for them to chew those wild leaves. Following their custom, he too went ahead to try the leaves. On tasting it, he was so flabbergasted by its taste and nature of rejuvenating the mind and body that on his way back to India, he carried some with him. From here starts the journey of tea in India.


Chronicles of Chai

After being brought to India, tea became a luxury drink that was popular among the emperors and their associates. From being an antidote to long court sessions for king Harshavardhan to being a mitigator during a bureaucratic meet in Ashoka’s court, tea served all the royal purpose in history. Mounted as a royal drink, it soon percolated down to the commoners. The journey of tea from a royal drink to an everyday essential is vast.
Owing to the vast popularity to the commoners, India today is one of the largest producers and consumers of tea. What makes tea in India different from the other parts of the world is the addition of milk and spices in it. Every nooks and corner of every Indian city is filled with Chaiwalas (tea sellers) and each chaiwala has his/her own signature style of making tea. Ingredients like ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, black peppers and what not are used to make variants of chai that people drool over.

The ubiquitous drink of India - chai is suitable for various moods. It is served in every corner of the cities and towns of India. Chai is more than a trend here, it adds rhythm to our daily lives- from the mountains to the seaside to the ultra-urban sites it has a uniform presence everywhere. In fact behind every cup of chai lies the artistry of a chaiwalla. There are a variety of chais present throughout the country, namely:

Bombay Cutting Chai

The infamous cutting chai from the streets of Bombay with full efficiency arrests us into its aromatic beauty leaving us in awe. It is called cutting chai because the flavour of the tea is so strong that it is served half a glass per person. A modified version of masala chai served in small “cutting glasses” served best in the “Chai Tapris” of Bombay [Mumbai].

Masala Chai

An Indian tea spiced with flavours and is mostly preferred in the chilly morning. Cardamom, clove, black pepper, ginger, garlic and nutmeg are the most popular spices used in its making. Although the spice mix varies for every chaiwallas.

Kashmiri Kahwa

This is a traditional green tea from Kashmir, packed with oriental spices. Kashmiri Kahwa's distinctive aroma is extracted from saffron threads included in the mix. The tea also includes cardamom, almonds, cinnamon and cloves. This is the finest tea delivered during the hours of brunch.

Sulaimani Chai

This type of black tea has its origins in South India, and also is best known as ' Ghava' or 'Kattan Chaya'. The Sulaimani is primarily a black tea with lemon and is best suited for digestion after a heavy dinner.

Tulsi Chai

Well-known for its health benefits, Tulsi Chai uses one of the sacred herbs of India – holy basil. Fresh tulsi leaves are brewed along with tea that is believed to strengthen the immune system and acts as a relief for stress. It is a morning tea that can be consumed with or without the milk.
Where the rest of the world sip on tea lattes Indian make their own variants of chais differing in each state. The   drink of the world has a different face in India.


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