Chai is more than just a cup of tea to get the day off in India – a thick sweet drink is a vital part of life's rhythm. Everything happens over a taste of tea from neighborhood chats to intense political debates. Chai is also the most popular drink in India – India consumes 837,000 tonnes' of tea each year! One of the oldest beverages in history.
Like any famous drink, the origin of chai is full of legend and conflicting accounts. Chai was not used for the tea we know today in ancient India, but for a medicinal concoction made by brewing herbs and spices, similar to the Kada of tradition. The earliest “shai” contained no tea leaves, with different herbs depending on the seasons and the ingredients available.
Chaï uses herbs and spices more closely related to aromas, while Kada uses herbs, leaves, and flowers mostly for medicinal purposes. Therefore, there is only a little bit of a difference. Chai is also brewed less than Kada for a while. There are also many other stories about how India produced the first cup of tea.
A story says that chai was accidentally developed when a Buddhist monk on a way to China observed and tried the local chewing ritual on a few wild leaves. He decided to return to India with him when he was rejuvenated. It is interesting to note that tea was first erroneously discovered 5,000 years ago when the Emperor of China found tea leaves in his boiling water pot. He was known for his scientific curiosity and loved the drink. Tea was a staple of Chinese culture before long.
When the British came to India, they built tea plantations as an alternative to their expensive Chinese tea. Tea was initially given free to the Indians to tap into the local market, and soon a Masala Chai, an indigenous and English-style hybrid was born.
Masala Chai is probably Indian Tea's most loved and widely consumed way, but the variations are not ending. Indeed, different parts of the country are renowned for their unique brews, with Mumbai's cutting chai, Hyderabad's rich Iran chai, and the delicate pink Kashmiri chai being among the popular choices.
Wherever you are in India, you probably aren't so far from a chai stall, small roadside shacks that are named for various places in the country. The most inexpensive and delicious, ideal cool in all kinds of weather is the tea sold in these humble outlets.
Most chai stalls, like cafes, are also social nooks, where people of every age can talk about almost anything, whether it is about news, politics, sports, personal dilemmas, or even the weather. Recent years have witnessed the rise of specialist chai cafés with the added convenience of Free Wireless Internet, mainly sanitized, modern versions of the traditional roadside shop - The Chai Story, Chai Shai Etc, Ekk Cup Chai, Ab Chai pe Charcha, Chai Wai, and The Chai Bar.
Chai is also the final chat starter in homes, which is used by everyone visiting. Most people have two cups at least every day, breakfast once and again late at night, just like the British.
Chai is the omnipresent Indian drink, despite its relationship to an impressive history of British imperialism, and is consumed beyond all classes and status. Practice and patience are needed to brew or even find the perfect cup, but nothing is the same when you do it.
Like any other tea blend, a chai blend will not go "bad," but it can become stabilized. Pay your money to a reputable company that can tell you when and how the chai was processed and packaged to ensure that you are getting the freshest chai. With these storage tips in mind, Chai tea blends may remain fresh for up to one year: