Tea made by boiling tea leaves with milk, sugar, and sometimes spices.
That’s what the Oxford Dictionary describes Chai as. But what does it know? Chai is so much more than that for us Indians.
It might have originated in China, but it is as much ours as it is our neighbours’.
Legend has it that tea was an accidental discovery. Dried leaves landed in a boiling cup of water served to the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung and that’s how the first cup of tea was brewed way back in 2737 B.C. Yes, that long ago!
We Indians can’t be more thankful to the neighbours for this one. Another note of thank you to the Brits for bringing it to India. Now, maybe it’s a Colonial hangover or the proximity to China, but one can’t deny that every Indian loves their cup of tea. Here, it is a culture in itself.
The process in itself is so intriguing . The tea leaves turn the water into a deep hue of amber and the sharp scent of elaichi and adrak brewing with the tea is strangely comforting. And the milk! Oh, watching the sight of milk welling up and filling the black void in the container full of brewed tea is a beauty of its own kind.
Tea, for me, also brings about a certain sense of nostalgia. Waking up in the morning as a child, the first thing I would see would be my father having his cuppa, reading his newspaper. Over the past 2 decades, so much has changed but when it comes to this, nothing has. Except perhaps for the fact that I’ve also joined in.
The fact that tea can be accompanied with both sweet and savoury dishes only makes it the leading contender for the National Drink status. I enjoy my aloo parantha just as much as a cake as long as I get my cup of tea along with it.
For a person who finds so much comfort in tea, it wasn’t surprising that once I left school and transitioned to college, it still remained a daily need. The one thing that felt like home, away from home.
The endless cups of tea that I’ve gulped down with my friends make for the best memories. And even after college got over, there isn’t a single reunion where we don’t grab a cup of tea.
But I enjoy chai all by myself too. Frankly, there couldn’t be better company when I just want to clear my head. It is a million little moments to myself that help me get through a bad day. And the amount of times it has sat with me through the all-nighters I’ve pulled makes it my best friend.
Coming from a nation that loves its tea, I know the claim I’m making isn’t too big.
Going to my favourite tea corner is a glimpse of just how tea connects every Indian. I see lawyers and daily wage workers sitting side by side and sharing a cup of tea in silence.
Even at home, sitting for chai is a daily ritual that gives the family some much needed time together. Every bowl of pakoras we’ve shared on a rainy evening to every cup in the evening, tea makes sure we don’t miss out on our family time.
A conversation starter, the elixir that we can’t begin the day without and the perfect partner to Parle G, a cup of tea is all you need. Every single morning, as I sit with my cup of tea, I can’t help but thank the Chinese and Brits for bringing to us this beautiful gift.