Oxford Dictionary describes Chai as:
“Tea made by boiling tea leaves with milk, sugar, and sometimes spices.”
Indians, however, know it to be that magical potion that fixes just about everything with the first sip you take. And we all know that chai is best served in a kulhad, a simple piece of clay that can change the way your chai tastes.
The potter leaves the kulhad unglazed and unpainted. This unfinished touch is the reason you can smell that earthy aroma when you hold the kulhad in your hands.
The saundhi khushboo can make you live a hundred monsoons with just one sip.
The hot tea partially soaks into the walls of the kulhad. This enhances the flavour and aroma of the tea. There’s something very earthy and soul soothing about the taste of the chai that is sipped slowly from the kulhad.
I only recently discovered the right way to drink tea from a kulhad, a trick that had been kept almost like a secret by the people of Uttar Pradesh. When you take your first sip of tea, you’re supposed to nibble at the kulhad. The tiny bits of clay will add to the earthy aroma and flavour.
Sadly, though, we can’t find a lot of tea vendors selling chai in kulhads. The modern plastic cups seem to have replaced the old school kulhads. But you can’t take away the charm that kulhads have.
The moment I come across a tea vendor selling chai in a kulhad, as rare as that is, I make it a point to buy one cup of tea for myself. Spotting a stall that sells chai in a kulhad becomes the highlight of the day. At times, you can even buy the kulhad off the tea vendor and enjoy your cup of tea at home.
Whatever the case be, the first sip of chai you take out of a kulhad is just the beginning of the love affair. The earthy aroma hits you and the burst of flavour in your mouth hits your soul. When that happens, you know everything as good as it could be.