Chai is a quintessential part of my being. And as a typical Indian I know, the aroma of a hot cup of chai is a treat that many of us look forward to as the first thing in the morning.
My father always says that it takes only 4 things to prepare a cup of tea. Water, milk, sugar and tea leaves but it always turns out differently. Sometimes it is over boiled, sometimes under boiled, sometimes milky, at times it is really sweet and at times it is not. But a cup of tea…is a cup of tea. Nothing can replace tea for a tea lover.
I started having tea regularly when I went to college. In my 4th and 5th year of hostel life, tea was something that brought all of us together. In Kolkata, chai adda is famous. People can hang around, talk for hours and indulge into political debates over rounds of tea. We would order maggi along with tea. Right after the classes, we would flock around the maasi’s (as we fondly called the lady who ran the tea stall) and place our standard order of tea and maggi.
My personal favourite was ginger tea. I loved the soothing taste of my cup of ginger tea. I so fell in love with that flavor that I bought myself an electric kettle, milk powder and tea bags to have my favourite cuppa anytime I wanted. I don’t know a lot about science behind tea but it used to soothe my soul. It seemed like I sipped life with every sip of tea and stress and anxiety would wipe out of my system. Before placements, tea was my savior in keeping me awake for the preparations.
My love for tea grew as I joined corporate life. It was these 10 minutes tea breaks which my colleagues and I so looked forward to in the otherwise busy boring days where we remained locked up inside the air controlled offices. There was this small roadside tea vendor who sold tea and onion pakoras, mirchi bhajji, punugulu along with imli chutney. It was mouthwatering. We could not resist the oily treats with the tea shots he sold in tiny plastic cups.
And then came the wedding, I got married into a family of tea lovers. My father in law would experiment with different kinds of tea. Lopchu chai as he would call it, involved boiling of fragrant tea leaves in plain water for just about half a minute and then leaving it like that on closed flame for a couple of minutes before serving. Another favourite of his is the cinnamon tea. He claims that it is even good for your heart. My mother in law is also a tea lover and we share a special bond over our several rounds of tea, it is even telepathic. Most of the times, before I express that I feel like having tea, she would ask me, if I wanted a cup of our favourite beverage.
Tea is a wonderful beverage and people have had it, cherished it, became friends, stayed awake and even fallen in love over it. We are lucky to be born in India, because Indian Darjeeling tea is one of the most sought after tea variety in the world. It has even got Geographical Indication status.
According to the report of India brand equity foundation, which is a Trust established by the Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India. India is one of the world’s leading producers of tea – 23 per cent share by volume in 2011. The tea produced in India is among the finest in the world owing to strong geographical indications, heavy investments in tea processing units, continuous innovation, augmented product mix and strategic market expansion. The main growing regions lie in Northeast India, including Assam, the Darjeeling district and the Dooars region of North Bengal, and in the Nilgiris in South India.
Initially, it was the Englishmen, who while ruling India, could not resist the Indian tea and in order to export it to their country, made huge Tea estates and developed tea gardens.
Chai when complimented with a tasty snack, tastes even better. In my state, chai and nimki is the ideal “sham ka naasta”-tea time dish. However, the best combination in my view is chai and samosa. The mouthwatering tangy samosa along with hot masala chai is the best combination I have ever had.
I can go on and on about chai. Right now as well, while writing about chai, I am having a cup of chai. A cup of garam chai (hot tea) with friends is the perfect remedy to a long day at work, a bad cold, a bad movie or even a bad hangover. You may have it with ginger, lemon, masala, elaichi (cardamom) or just plain chai, with or without sugar. Every sip of this aromatic beverage will calm your senses, relax your nervous system and invigorate your brain to think better. Last but not the least, it will definitely leave you asking for more.