Chai – one word, a million feelings! India’s ‘national drink’ stirs up so many emotions. But just to give you a rough idea - as the world’s second largest producers of tea, us Indians consume around 840,000 tonnes of it every year!.
India lives on chai and the first lessons come quite early. As a kid, you see your parents waking up to this special concoction while you are invariably handed a glass of milk. The routine repeats itself in the evening. And every time you plead for a few sips, you’re either told off or allowed a sparing mouthful from your parents’ cup. On most occasions, the furthest you get is being allowed to dip a rusk or khari biscuit in their tea.
So one clearly has no choice but to wait for the seasonal flu to hit you. And when it does, you know a strong cuppa infused with therapeutic herbs like tulsi, adrak, laung and elaichi is in order. After all, maa knows that the magic formula of masala chai works wonders for flu. However, your lifetime membership to the tea-drinking clique takes longer; you have to wait until you are ‘grown-up’ enough to be eligible.
And once you’re in, you can proudly stand at the khoka with a bevy of tea drinkers enjoying their chai down to the very last drop. They could be chatting away on politics, sports, international events or the next big thing in Bollywood. You may not know them, but you feel a powerful connection nonetheless. For those ten minutes, it’s where you belong – it’s not just a place, it’s a community.
And there’s no such thing as too much tea right? Because real tea drinkers know about its multifold benefits. Research suggests that tea is high in antioxidants like polyphenols and is also known to help with digestive problems and heart ailments. In fact, our humble tea also doubles as an incredible eye care ingredient. Tea leaves wrapped in cold muslin cloth not only rejuvenate tired eyes but are also a great remedy for reducing dark circles. No wonder then – tea is an integral ingredient for well-being.
Whether we realize it or not, chai means more to the Indian culture than we can possibly fathom.