An Ode to a Cup of Chai

Certain memories remain etched in the mind forever. One such experience is from the seventies when as a family we would drive over 300 miles to my grandparents’ home. 

One fourth of the journey was particularly scenic with tea gardens on both sides of the state highway. We would roll down the windows to allow the breeze to come in, and the fresh scent of tea leaves would fill our nostrils. Even now, I can close my eyes and still relive those moments. 

The association with tea has always been there!

The lush tea gardens have always had my heart. Ironically, I am yet to visit one. There is such an aura of peace and serenity in that greenery. In the naïveté of my childhood, I even thought that it was really easy to buy one. Oh, how I wish it was!

“To which part of India do you belong?” This is a question that I have been asked several times by non-Indians. I love to say: “I am from a state in the northeast called Assam, which accounts for 50% of the tea that India produces.” There is so much pride in that statement.

No pun intended, the desire of an Assamese for a strong cup of the beverage is indeed strong.  It’s our comfort drink at any time. Here is something interesting: tea lovers who are picky about fragrances are even well-versed with the names of gardens that grow their favorite types and buy from them accordingly.

Proclaimed as the “chai country”, 72% of Indians regularly consume tea. Why just Assam or India? Other than water, tea is the beverage that is universally consumed in the world.

A cup of perfect chai? The definition, please!!!!

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It took me a long time to figure out how to meet my mother’s standard for a good cup of tea. Something was always wrong because she was too critical! I don’t know what I do differently these days, but she is finally happy with the tea I serve!

Will you be amused if I talk about recipes for making tea? I can guarantee that you will find them in tons.

With the internet always at your service these days, you can get instructions to make any food or drink under the sun. However, the process of tea-brewing is not rocket science, but rather simple common sense. It is one’s estimation and instinct to add ingredients in the right proportions that stir up a relishing cup.

We cannot set the parameters for defining a perfect cup of tea because tastes are so personal! 

Variety is the spice, or is it the tea of life?

A tea connoisseur has a whole world to choose from because there is truly God’s plenty. Each type has its own charm. 

You take your pick: plain tea with just milk and sugar, masala chai (tea with aromatic herbs and spices), adrak chai (ginger tea), green tea, black tea, tea with fruit flavors, and the list goes on. 

Peeking into history: Yes, we had nations warring over tea

The Boston Tea Party of 1773 was a landmark event of the American Revolution. In a protest against the unreasonable tea tax set by the British, 342 tea chests were dumped into the Boston harbor by rebellious American colonists. 

This was not the sole war fought over tea. As weird as it may sound, trade disputes regarding tea triggered the Opium Wars between China and Britain in the nineteenth century.

Bonding over tea!

The whistling sound of the kettle in the kitchen is what most of us have grown up with. Moms and grandmoms would get the act ready for the refreshing tea, and with time, we too became the actors in that play. It came to us so organically to make tea for ourselves and others.

In many countries, hospitality is woven around tea. In India, for instance, it has become customary to either offer any guest a cup or ask them to stay back for one. It is considered a mark of respect and affection towards the person dropping by.

The best of conversations happen with our loved ones over tea and snacks. Time flies by, and we just do not realize it.

The hidden package in the cup

Besides the joy of socializing over tea, there are also the health benefits that we reap from it. It goes without saying that an overdose of anything cannot be good, but research establishes that drinking tea in moderation enhances the immune system, reduces inflammation, and improves heart health.

Just imagine: you are feeling a little sleepy in the middle of the workday and finding it hard to concentrate. Grab some tea if you can. Take a few sips, and bounce back into action!

What natural antidote can you think of to ease stress and beat the fatigue after a busy, long day? A quick dose of tea perhaps! It works like magic and helps to re-energize!

It rarely crosses our mind that something as mundane as a cup of tea has such amazing powers and is so much a part of our lives. The profound appreciation for tea finds expression in this beautiful quote from the Chinese polymath Lin Yutang: “There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.”

So if you are a tea fan, relax, reinvigorate, and spice up your day with a cuppa or two!



About the Author

Rashmi Bora Das

Rashmi Bora Das is a freelance writer settled in the suburbs of Atlanta. She has a master’s degree in English from India, and a second master’s in Public Administration from the University of read more...

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