Conversations over tea seems to have caught on with the City dwellers. Whether served in a flimsy plastic cup, glass, ceramic mug, earthenware clay pot or a silver-plated kettle, it is a cup of steaming hot tea that matters.
Tea culture is growing in Bengaluru like never before. The City has woken up to its health benefits and the wide avenue of tea lounges have given rise to the growing tea culture.
Zach Marks and Resham Gellatly are tea researchers who have been collecting stories of ‘chaiwallahas’ from India’s many distinct regions. They have been highlighting the variations in ‘chai-culture’ by documenting how ‘chai’ is woven into the daily fabric of India and seek to depict a culture that epitomises India’s diversity and unity.
The stories are shared on their website, ‘chaiwallahsofindia.com’. Zach feels that Bengaluru has a rich ‘chai’ culture which is often not appreciated. “People from other parts of country have a general perception that Bengaluru is a place for coffee lovers but what we found out was that Bengaluru consumes more tea than other parts of the country. Here, tea is mostly targeted towards youth and corporate sector.
Tea drinking is mostly like a lounge or a cafe format unlike the other parts of the county where ‘cutting chai’ or the ‘street tea’ is very popular. Having said that, ‘street chai’ is available in places like Shivajinagar but the tea culture is mostly overlooked at by the corporate and urban sector.”
The latest trend in tea are tea companies serving chai directly to corporate firms and homes. Offices can even subscribe for regular deliveries and this has led to an increase in consumption of ‘chai’ in the City.
Gaurav Saria from Infinitea says that there is a big difference between ‘chai’ and tea. “‘Chai’ is adding of milk to the tea which causes acidity and is unhealthy but tea is the pure form which is boiled in water and consumed. Though ‘chai’ has always been there, it is the tea culture that is growing in the city which has several health benefits,” he says.
Apart from the traditional teas like ginger, cinnamon, mint and ‘elachi’, there
are different varieties and flavours such as green tea, white, black, herbal, ‘sulamani’, and fruit-flavoured tea that are tasty and healthy. Pritika Agarwal, owner of Tea Brew believes in staying rooted to Indian tea and experimenting on western flavours by a variety of teas.
One of the biggest challenges they face is to bring about a change in people’s mindset. “Indians taste buds are very accustomed to milk-based tea. Changing this perception and also creating awareness about the benefits of tea is important.”
Munching the right snack with the tea makes for a wholesome experience.
Traditionally, biscuits, cookies or sandwiches complimented tea, but today ‘samosa’, ‘momos’, pakoda and other snacks are favoured with tea. Chaipatty offers ‘pakoda’ and Maggi noodles which complements the tea and Infintea offers tea and dessert combinations, where they give five teas which are paired with five different desserts.
Chirag Yadav, the owner of Chaipatty, says, “We need to first understand the right way of drinking tea. A tea is always taken when it is hot to attain its health benefits. The essence of the ingredients is lost when the tea is cold. Tea leaves should never be boiled more than two minutes in the water.”
Sahaja, a youngster, feels that tea is healthy and less expensive than a cup of coffee. “Initially, I was a little hesitant in drinking green tea but once I got the taste of it, I’m now hooked to it. A good cup of tea rejuvenates me and also comes with a reasonable price.”