For Indians, Chai is not just a drink. It’s an emotion! Like many others, Indians do not merely consider Chai as a drink to begin the day with. The culture and life of Indians are connected to Chai in one way or the other. The best example of this is the good number of chai walas in every nook and corner of Indian streets. India is popular as the 2nd largest producer of India worldwide and is also regarded as the highest tea consuming country.
Chai was once consumed as a medicinal drink back in 500BC. But with the invasion of the British, tea drinking became a popular culture among Indians. Tea was introduced to Indians by the British by brewing fermented tea leaves in water and by adding milk and sugar to it. At that time tea was a luxury drink. Soon they started tea plantation in high range areas of India especially in the foothills of the Himalayas. Decades after the British left our country; Indians started altering tea recipes by adding our indigenous spices to it, thus formed the most popular masala chai! Each area has its own special variety of teas according to the seasons and available ingredients. Darjeeling Tea and Assam Tea are a few to mention.
A fairly decent national addiction, Chai is the most perfect drink offered to guests in every Indian household. In fact, refusing tea offered by an Indian host is regarded as an offense. India is a place that hosts tea parties frequently even after the British left. Serving tea is considered the most important sign of hospitality to every Indian. Every visitor to an Indian home, be it a guest, driver, or worker is offered a cup of Chai. There is no upper, middle, and lower class treatment in the case of chai culture.
Chai is not just a beverage to Indians, it is an ideal companion. The perfect way to enjoy rain, movie and long talks is with the accompaniment of chai. It is ideal for refreshing mind and body as drinking chai stimulates senses. Be it a meeting, party, sangeet or funeral, there is no event without chai in India. Chai is also an ideal drink to initiate a conversation. If you observe a chai wala in Indian street, you can easily spot many people engaged in such conversations!
Next time when you drink tea, remember you’re not just consuming a beverage, it is India’s pride, solidarity, diversity and, culture all amalgamated in one glass! Enjoy.