Know Your Chai
Let’s face it, each of you reading this is either someone who digs chai or knows at least 5 others who do, or perhaps both! Tea is the most consumed drink in the world after water, so here we are, breaking down the multifold avatars of this global necessity for you! Read on to know some tea-riffic tea tales from around the world that will have tea lovers in tea-rs of joy:
1) Indian Masala Chai: Did you know that Masala Chai was actually originally made without chaipatti? Or that it was a royal Ayurvedic drink? The British brought down this tradition from the royalty to the masses by rebranding black tea they grew as the new masala chai, and now every tea-growing region in India has its own signature brew. We are the second largest producers of tea in the world, as well as the greatest consumers, what with our chai tapri and chai pe charcha culture!
2) Chinese Chayi: The Mandarin word ‘Chayi’ means the art of drinking tea, and the Chinese take this very seriously, having been the first to discover the tea leaf and having propagated the same through dynasties. ‘Chayi’ is one of China’s seven daily necessities, right up there with rice, oil and firewood, and is an elaborate procedure involving an array of utensils. Similar to the Indian ‘adda’ culture, China has teahouses even today, which are places for people to share ideas and socio-political dialogue over cups of freshly brewed tea- yellow tea being the most priced yet the most savoured.
3) Tibetan Butter Tea/ Po Cha: This is a delicious concoction of tea, salt and yak butter. The tea used here is a kind of brick tea- basically a small brick of tea leaves, stalks and even dust, imported from China. A portion of this brick is crumbled into water and boiled for hours, to produce a bitter brew called ‘chaku’, which is ultimately churned with salt and yak butter to make Po Cha. Po Cha is consumed several times in a day by the Tibetan people and has many benefits, especially considering the high altitude and low temperature, and the high calorie content of this tea that brings up energy levels. This is definitely a must try when you visit Tibet.
4) Touareg Tea or Moroccan Mint Tea: While this fairly common tea term sounds easy to prepare and fairly simple, there’s a catch. This brew of water, green tea, mint tea and sugar has to be boiled several times, and poured at a height of at least 2-3 feet (quite a height!) into the authentic small glass tea cups, quite like shot glasses. This is what gives the tea its froth, an essential element of the taste and flavour. The key is to practice, and start lower to the glass, raising the kettle upwards as you keep pouring. Moroccan Mint grew in popularity because it was a refreshing means of hospitality in a hot and dry climate, and is served today with spiced nut and fruit pastries.
5) English Afternoon Tea: The story of the famous English tea time comes from a societal constraint in the 19th century, when it was considered appropriate to consume only two meals in a day. The people would go hungry waiting for supper, and hence emerged the concept of having a large assortment of sweets and baked good along with tea and lemon. The tea culture is alive and thriving even today in Britain, and people consume upto 3 cups everyday on an average, Earl Grey and English Breakfast Tea being the favourites. If you’re planning a trip to London anytime soon, do drop by the Orangerie, a cafe that shows you the English tea culture at its best.
Hong Kong ‘Pantyhose’ Tea, Taiwanese ‘Boba’/Bubble Tea, Japanese ‘Matcha’ Tea and Turkish ‘cay’ tea are some other interesting tea cultures you can look up, when visiting the nations mentioned. For now, share this with someone who loves tea, and show them what they’re missing out on!