Tea has been a vibrant part of colonial India. Tea has found more patrons in India than coffee. Our snack has to be complimented with a chai. Tea has been the staple favourite of the labourers to rich alike. India is one of the world’s largest producers of tea. We have some of the very best quality and biggest quantities of the plant. Darjeeling, Assam and the Nilgiris are renowned for their flavours and tastes. What matters most is the diverse and unique preparations of the tea one could find across the length and breadths of the country.
This is the most popular and regular chai you would find in any household or parts of the country. The masala chai is prepared by brewing tea leaves with milk as well as spices such as cardamom, ginger and in some cases, lemongrass. It is also one stop remedy for all kinds of colds, calms sore throats and cheers up your life.
An empty kulhad (earthen pot) is preheated in a tandoor. Half-cooked tea is poured onto it. The heat of the kulhad further cooks the tea and it is brewed with a smoky flavour of the tandoor.
Noon chai, Kashmir
This tea is popularly known as the pink chai or gulabi chai or sheer chai. The unique tea gets its colour from the addition of baking soda to the drink. The soda reacts with the tea leaves, thus resulting in a soothing baby pink shade. Noon Chai is known to provide warmth during the winter season. Noon translates to salt in multiple languages of India and noon chai, means literally that—salt tea. It’s typically milky with floral notes, owing to the addition of rose petals and spices such as cinnamon to the drink. Noon chai is a favourite across the Kashmir valley for its unique taste and flavour. It is mostly consumed in the mornings and afternoons and is often accompanied by a naan or tschot. This tea is also known as butter tea in Ladakh and Nepal. They add butter to the drink.
When you blend masala chai with English breakfast chai you get a delicate, fragrant light tea with highlights of mint and lemongrass flavour. This is what Parsi Choi is all about. As it goes by the name, Parsi Choi can be found in Parsi homes and restaurants.
Sulaimani chai, Kerala & Hyderabad
This tea is brewed with tea powder and sugar to a golden colour with spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger etc. Unlike other Indian teas no milk is added in this preparation. A dash of lemon is added in the end. It is consumed after a big meal for better digestion. It is believed that the Arab traders brought this tea along with them to India. The name Sulaimani also comes from this. Sulaiman’ in Arabic translates to ‘man of peace’. This name was given to this tea by the locals in the Malabar region because of the friendship they had with the Arabs. And with time this tea became popularly known as ‘Sulaimani Chai’. Sulaimani Chai is popular in many parts of Hyderabad and Kerala, especially among the Muslim communities.
Irani chai, Mumbai & Pune
Irani Chai is prepared separately and then mixed together. Water, sugar and tea leaves are boiled. The milk is boiled until it becomes a thick, heavy layer. Thereafter it is mixed when served, a concoction that is sticky and sweet. One can find Irani Chai in tea shops of Mumbai.
Kahwa is Kashmir valley’s staple beverage. Kahwah in Kashmiri means sweetened tea. Herbal or green tea is boiled with saffron, cinnamon and cardamom. Thereafter it is served with honey and crushed dry fruits & nuts. You can find this tea in Pakistan and many parts of central Asia as well. It is widely believed that Kahwa is an iteration of Qahwah, the Arabic coffee recipe.
Cutting chai, Mumbai
More than the preparation it has to do with the quantity of the tea being served.
Cutting chai is the result of an every growing, busy metropolitan city and the lack of time.
Like in Mumbai, cutting chai evolved from the city’s need for pace. Colonial tea ceremony is a luxury that most of these working class cannot afford. Leisurely chai time are practically non-existent. A cup of chai is sometime what it keeps you on the move. A half a cup of chai is just enough for you to sail through. The best part is that each vendor would have his own recipe and sometimes a mixture of various kinds of tea served in the country. It’s always a huge flavoursome tea in a small glass.