Spill the Tea, India!
“If you are cold, tea will warm you;
If you are too heated, it will cool you;
if you are depressed, it will cheer you;
if you are excited, it will calm you.”
William Ewart Gladstone
Tea is a drink synonymous with India. From the ubiquitous chai wallahs to the iconic masala tea, it is very easy to see that India has a rich and vibrant relationship with tea. Recently, tea was recognised as Assam’s state drink. Soon after, there are now serious and concerted efforts to get tea recognized as India’s national drink. If this becomes an actuality, it would not be a title far removed from the truth of the situation. India consumes more than 837 million litres of tea every year, making it one of the largest consumers of tea worldwide.
(Picture Credit: The Spruce Eats)
Contrary to popular belief, India has consumed tea since ancient times. Some assert that the earliest references to tea, or a tea-based equivalent, can be found as early as 750 to 500 CE in the Ramayana. Since then, drinking of tea was known as a relatively common Indian practice. However, tea did not achieve its current superstar status until British colonisation in the 19th century. The British penchant for tea drove India to cultivate and distribute mass amounts of tea. Now, in the 21st century, India has made a practice of tea production that it is now the second larger exporter of tea in the world.
( Picture Credit: Pri )
The most common way to experience tea while in India is to visit the Chai Wallahs, or tea sellers, who can be found at practically any corner in any Indian state. Chai Wallahs typically either operate out of a movable vehicle or a stationery shop. Most of these Chai Wallahs make and sell Masala Chai, which means spiced tea. This is a simple concoction: Chai Wallahs basically brew tea leaves and milk with a different combinations of spices such as cardamom, black pepper, ginger root and cinnamon.
(Picture Credit: Poetry Tea Time )
Chai Wallahs take great pride in their craft. In certain parts of India, such as Kolkata, the Chai Wallahs put on a show revolving around their method of tea production. The Chai Wallah pours tea back and forth between two pots, two arm lengths apart. Some people are satisfied by watching this mini-performance as they feel thrilled by getting to watch the process of tea preparation.
In your next visit to India, make sure to stop and order a cup of chai from a chai wallah so you can experience this quintessentially Indian phenomenon first hand!