India’s Favorite Beverage – Chai

Every Indian household has one thing in common – a tea in the morning, a tea in the evening. But how much do we know about our Chai ?

Origin of Tea

Tea was first drunk in China as far back as 2700 B.C.! In fact words such as tea, ‘chai’ and ‘chini’ are from Chinese. There are various legends about the origin of Tea. There is one about the Chinese emperor Shen Nung who always boiled water before drinking it. One day a few leaves of the twigs burning under the pot fell into the water giving it a delicious flavour. It is said they were tea leaves. There is also an Indian legend about the origin of tea. Bodhidharma, an ancient Buddhist ascetic, cut off his eyelids because he felt sleepy during meditations. Ten tea plants grew out of the eyelids. The leaves of these plants when put in hot water and drunk banished sleep.

Masala Chai

Masala Chai originated in India. In India, many herbs and spices are added to the tea. Each family has their own version of making tea. It is a tea beverage made by boiling black tea in milk and water with a mixture of aromatic herbs and spices. Tea plants have grown wild in the Assam region since antiquity, but historically, Indians viewed tea as an herbal medicine rather than as a recreational beverage.

In the 1830s, the East India Company became concerned about the Chinese monopoly on tea, which constituted most of its trade and supported the enormous consumption of tea in Great Britain. Then, british colonists noticed the existence of the Assamese tea plants, and began to cultivate tea plantations locally. However, consumption of black tea within India remained low until the promotional campaign by the Indian Tea Association in the early 20th century, which encouraged factories, mines, and textile mills to provide tea breaks for their workers. It also supported many independent chaiwalas throughout the growing railway system. The official promotion of tea was as served in the Indian mode, with small added amounts of milk and sugar.

Indian varieties of Tea

  • Masala chai – It is the most popular beverage in India
  • Noon chai – The pink tea is a traditional tea beverage from Kashmir and also served in many parts of Rajasthan and Nepal.
  • Green tea – it has been used in Ayurveda and it has also become a part of the modern India lifestyle.
  • Black tea – Black Tea is stronger in flavour and produced by all tea producing regions of India. Large leaved Assamese plants are mainly used for black tea.
  • White tea – White Tea harvested in India, Sri Lanka and China, It’s one of the styles of tea made from the buds and immature tea leaves.
  • Herbal tea – Herbal Tea made from hot water and served hot with varieties of plant material such as hibiscus, rose, etc.
  • Iced tea – It is a common drink in India, mostly available as ginger lemon iced tea or lemon iced tea. Lipton and Nestle brand of tea are two most popular brands of iced tea in India.
  • Irani chai – Irani Chai are masala chai with some spices and a popular quick weekend breakfast.
  • Tandoori chai – It is made in tandoor where clay pots also known as kullhads are preheated in tandoor and again served in fresh and clean kulhads.

Indians and their Chai can never be separated from one another. Now,  I am also going to drink a refreshing cup of chai with tasty and crispy pakoras.