Remember a tea brand commercial on TV where a couple, having forgotten their house key, are waiting outside when their neighbour from a different community asks them to come to her house? The man is hesitant, even more so when she offers them tea. But after tasting it, his approach towards the woman and her small daughter suddenly changes, he even asks for one more cup. Well, never mind the exaggeration, that’s part of the advertising game, the fact is that tea is truly one of the things that people in India bond over. And it’s not just an energy drink that we can’t do without, it is an inseparable part of our lives. We may relish it at home or at an outside tapri, or an adda, but tea is an integral part of our culture.
According to un.org, tea is the world’s most consumed drink, after water. Interestingly, the tradition of making and consuming tea didn’t start in India. There is evidence that shows that tea was consumed in China some 5,000 years ago. But like most imports, we have Indianised it and how!
On International Tea Day (May 21), we catch up with a few people about their favourite tea and their best memories associated with the beverage.
Tea is life
“First of all, God bless the soul who invented tea and I do believe, every tea lover would definitely agree with me. For me, waking up to the sweet aroma of tea every morning is like getting transported into a different world. Chai is not just a beverage for a tea lover like me. It is an emotion — if you are happy, sad, getting bored, in love or going through a rough patch, just drink tea. It shall do the magic. In short, tea is just the beverage for all occasions,” says Monse Varghese, who is originally from Kerala.
He adds, “My first memory of tea is from my school days. My whole family used to drink tea together with cookies as an accompaniment. That tea time used to be so much fun; mom and dad used to share stories of their childhood and all the good old days.”
The Varghese way
Most families have at least one secret recipe of a beverage or a dish. When asked about the tea made in his house, Varghese says that the ingredients are no secret. “Our chai is made in that same old way that every household follows. But we do have cardamom and ginger in our tea; that’s definitely an add-on. The recipe is very simple — boil water, add milk, then add tea powder and sugar. You can use elaichi and ginger for an enhanced taste,” he says, adding, “The taste has been the same for ages and I love it that way.”
Of course, like hardcore tea lovers, who do not shy away from trying everything tea, Varghese has tried a wide variety of teas like green tea, black tea, ginger tea, elaichi tea, herbal tea and so on. “But the variety which I loved is the mix of elaichi and ginger. In the near future, I would love to try the famous Kahwah tea,” he says.
The day feels incomplete without tea
Harjeet Singh (45) from Delhi is one of those who never say no to tea. Singh drinks almost 4-5 cups a day. Telling us what tea means to him, he says, “I feel something is missing in my life the day I don’t get tea. I remember when I was young, I used to drink tea in big copper glasses. And as I grew up, whenever my friends and I went out on bike, we never missed out on chai."
The milky brew
Singh loves his chai with only milk, without a drop of water. “My recipe is simple — pure milk, good amount of tea leaves and sugar. The tea tastes the same every single day as it has these three ingredients only,” he says, adding that in winter, jaggery and ginger tea is his most favourite tea.
Singh has tried many varieties but his ultimate favourite is the basic milk tea. Whenever he travels, he enjoys tea in kulhad the most.
Cure for every problem
It doesn’t matter whether you are in India or abroad, you desi heart will always long for a cuppa. Hafiz Dinani (23), from Gujarat is one such boy. The youngster who is studying in Canada, says that he prefers chai over any other drink. “The first thing that I want in the morning is tea. It is like a medicine for me. When I’m sad, I turn to tea; when I’m happy I have tea, when I am unwell too, I drink tea,” says Dinani.
The youngster says that when he was in India and things didn’t go his way, he used to go to Marine Drive in Mumbai, sit there with friends and chat over 2-3 cups of tea. “Tea is an emotion for me,” he says.
“I’ve got very less time with my family. As a kid, I was in a boarding school, then went to Pune for graduation, so I do not have any particular recipe for my tea. However, I always managed to find that one tea stall which matches my taste. So their recipe becomes my recipe. The last tea stall I loved was near my college in Pune named ‘Raju Ki Tapri’,” he says.
Dinani makes his own tea with ginger. It is good for health, boosts immunity and keeps you warm, he says. “I have tried a variety of teas including rose tea but to be honest, nothing can beat the taste and aroma of our regular tea,” he points out.
Chai changes mood
“Tea is something that can turn you from hulk to Bruce Banner. At least it is true with me. Chai has the ability to change my bad mood to good. It’s everything to me — love, happiness, freshness, stress buster, addiction — it’s life. It is my best companion in my ‘me time’. It makes me stronger and happier with every sip I take,” says tea lover Shifali Mulay (25) from Bengaluru.
Sharing a fun memory, she laughingly says, “My sister used to get a cup with some extra tea and to make me feel bad, she used to sip really bad with a big surrrrrrrrr sound. However, one day, when mom was getting tea for both of us, we already decided that the left one is mine and the right hers. Luckily, I got the cup with more tea. I couldn’t miss the chance, so I made a louder sound than her.”
Love is the secret ingredient
Mulay says that the power of tea matters. “My mom gets tea from a local vendor and the tea tastes as best as it used to when I was small. But, there’s one difference. Even if I prepare it the same way as my mother, it doesn’t taste the same. It is definitely because my mom’s love is the secret ingredient,” says the girl.
Mulay has found out that there are two types of tea drinkers — those who love to drink only a particular type of tea and the others, who like a particular type, but are open to try out all other varieties, just to prove that the one they are drinking is the best. “I have been travelling to the places with tea plantations. Therefore, I got to try ginger tea, green tea, lemon tea, chocolate tea, cardamom tea, Assam tea, Darjeeling tea, masala tea, vedic masala tea, extra strong Kerala tea and many more that I can’t remember the names of but I still remember their tastes. The one tea that I always crave for is chocolate tea from Assam. It is my favourite so far,” she says.
You feel it, you drink it
“You do not decide when to that have tea; you feel it, you drink it,” says Neetu Kaur Gurucharan Singh Cheema (23), originally from Punjab. “When we were not quarantined, I used to drink 4-5 cups a day as guests used to come or sometimes, we used to visit others. However, nowadays, we are drinking 3 cups a day,” she says.
Cheema is a student and was under the impression that examinations would take place. She started preparing for it by studying hard and buying a variety of teas to keep her awake in the night. “I bought a lot of tea flavours to find the most energetic one. Anyway, we just need an excuse to drink tea. As rainy season is on its way, I’m sure we are going to enjoy all the varieties I’ve bought,” she says.
Old is gold
Cheema remember everything when it comes to tea. “The best memory that I have is with my nani. I used to love the tea she made with pure milk. She would also give some homemade snack or paratha which I’m missing the most as we cannot visit her due to the lockdown,” she says.
Her favourite tea is ginger and elaichi tea. “If we run out of ginger, my mom adds lamsa to the tea. I also have tried a few different varieties, but I would say old is gold,” she says.
Tea and current affairs
Anjali Uttamrao Kadam (24) from Maharashtra is studying for MPSC. She studies late into the night. “We also spend most of our day time at the study point where tea is the only thing that relaxes us,” she says and adds, “we discuss current affairs while we drink tea at the study point. Sometimes, when we need to clarify something at night, we discuss it out while having tea in our respective homes,” Kadam says.
Sharing a memory of tea, she says, “I don’t have many old memories but recently, my friend and I were having tea and we thought of clicking some pictures. So, we both put our specs on our cups filled with tea, clicked pictures and posted it. It is one of the fun memories.”
Make your own tea
Like many other tea lovers, Kadam also loves ginger tea. “Everyone in my family likes different types of tea. But the one thing we all follow is that instead of expecting that others will give us the best tea, we prefer making our own,” she says. Due to the lockdown, she didn’t get to try any new tea but post this, she definitely would, she says.