Tea to Tango: Just 'Chai' it!

Tea forms part of the culture, fabric and makeup of Indian society and is regarded not only as the 'unofficial national' drink but also as the most 'visible' drink.

Recently there was a debate in Britain on whether the milk goes into a cup of tea first or last. Through a poll, it was ascertained that most of Britons preferred milk being poured in at the end. In India, this question is not necessary as tea is made differently from the West. Tea making in India is an art as much as drinking tea is a favourite pastime. 
  
India is the second most tea producer in the world after China. Therefore it comes as no surprise that anytime is teatime in India. Indians consume tea irrespective of the weather conditions or the season. Tea forms part of the culture, fabric and makeup of Indian society and is regarded not only as the 'unofficial national' drink but also as the most 'visible' drink.

Roadside teashops can be found on almost every street whilst passers-by can grab their favourite hot beverage all day every day. People are seen chatting and drinking tea outside their homes late into the cool summer evenings.

Tea is not only widely available, it is also cheap. 'Chaiwalas' can be seen on busy streets and in public spaces carrying their tea cans and shouting a melodious tune called 'Chai', 'Chai', 'Masala Chai'. At a bargain price of between Rs 5 to Rs 8 a 'cup' one can buy hot, delicious tea. Tea is sold in a (take away) cup or in a small tea glass if you are drinking the tea at the shop. It's more like a 'tot of tea' because the tea can be downed in a few satisfying gulps. Three cups of tea can fit into a normal-sized mug. There is an art to drinking tea. First, you smell the sweet aroma especially if it is masala tea made with rich spices. You invigorate your senses. Then you sip on the hot tea and savour the taste until every drop of the tea is finished. Drinking tea alone is boring. The tea is best sipped whilst chatting with the shopkeeper or a fellow tea drinker you just met at the teashop. Another way to enjoy the tea is with a snack. The list of tasty mouthwatering Indian snacks is endless... 'kachori', 'pakora', 'samosa', 'Bombay mix' … 

I love the tea made the Indian way – hot, deliciously sweet, milky and infused with love and passion as compared to the tea made in the Western world.

Using pure loose black tea, the water is boiled along with crushed spices (cinnamon, cardamom pods and ginger). Sugar and milk are added and further boiled. The tea is strained using a thin cloth or a strainer. The argument about whether the milk goes in last or first is a no-brainer in India. The milk goes in after the spices and is boiled altogether or else it is not authentic 'chai' at all.  

On the other hand in the western world, the teabags are brewed in boiling water. Once the teabag is removed, milk and sugar are added. Tea is served in style - from a teapot and using a cup, saucer and a teaspoon. Somehow, it seems that the prettier and more expensive the crockery used, the better the tea will appear to taste. 

Whether the tea is from famous and large tea plantations in Darjeeling or Assam or from a small plantation in Kerala, it is still the most healthiest, delicious and satisfying drink in the world. More delicious especially if it is made in India! 

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Tea to Tango: Just 'Chai' it!

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