From the little tea-stall behind your office to the tea vendors on railway platforms ; from your neighbourhood tea stall ‘adda’ session to friends chilling with a piping hot cup of chai over an upcoming match ………. ‘chai pe charcha’ has always been and still is a steaming part of India’s social fabric.
How we prepare tea may vary, what tea we drink now compared to our parents’ time may differ, but our relationship with tea is still going strong. media professional Tanya Chopra, says that tea is her ‘daily dose of sane-ism’. Had a bad day at work ? Cool it with a bitching session at the chai corner. Just fought with your partner ? Go to the neighbourhood tea stall to let off ‘steam’. At any point of time, if you feel you need a companion, when everyone around fails to understand you, there’s always a cup of chai for comfort. It never lets you down. In fact, it will perk you up in an instant.
Indians’ connection with tea begins at home, with the first aroma in the morning as our grandmothers, mothers, fathers or Ramuji or Kantabai brings in the tray along with the newspaper. Says singer Kumar Sanu, “It is your humble companion during intense political discussions, train journeys, chit-chat sessions with long-lost friends, highway breaks and rainy day romantic getaways. But, most importantly, a cup of ‘garam chai’ helps you eliminate awkwardness and strike a conversation with the other person.”
The concept of ‘healthy’ tea has gained momentum in India in the last decade, especially since the last three years. Says tea sommelier Rupali Ambegaonkar, “Since people are becoming more health-conscious, they are eliminating junk from their daily dose of tea. Every individual drinks his tea for a specific reason. Some want their tea to aid digestion while some have it just for its soothing flavour. Numerous varieties of tea are available today. Every tea has a special herbal mix and specific health benefits. We also import tea from various Asian countries like China and Japan, while some are flavoured in our own country.–Depending on the region and locally-grown ingredients, there are many popular variations available.
*Since cinnamon and saffron are grown in Kashmir on a large scale, Kashmiri Kahwa is made out of fresh green tea, saffron, sugar, cardamom, cinnamon and almonds. *Rich, milky and spicy, South Indian tea is known for its distinctive dark colour and intense aroma. *Authentic Darjeeling tea is blackish-green in colour. *The popular brew of Assam is known as Ronga Saah (red tea without milk) and it is often had with a slice of lemon . * A typical North Indian tea is served in a kulhad (earthen pot). Since clay soaks up all the moisture, the tea often has a very strong flavour. When in Punjab, simply order, ‘Ek kadak chai, malai maar ke.’ * the term synonymous with tea in Mumbai is Cutting Chai, which is based on the concept of aadhe se zyada and poore se kam. After all, we Indians love sharing, don’t we ? ——-Since the British popularised tea in India, it has become an integral part of the rhythm of life here. The chaiwallahs in India brew their tea fresh using ginger root, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and many other spices depending on the region.
Here is how ‘afternoon tea’ became a trend : While drinking tea as a fashionable event is credited to Catherine of Braganza —— known as the ‘tea-drinking Queen’ —— the actual idea of having tea in the afternoon was developed into a social event in the late 1830s by Anne, Duchess of Bedford. She enjoyed having light sandwiches and tea in the late afternoon to prevent the ‘sinking feeling’ she experienced during the long gap between meals. She began inviting others too and it became a trend.