Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ohh..for that hot steaming cup of milky Chai!!

I now have a new 'brrr...' factor that helps me decide if the autumn nip is turning into winter chills....a month into my life here, I know why the Englishmen begin and end their conversations with weather...But the truth is the forecast is still like our daily horoscopes in our afternoon tabloids...too wide open to offend anyone, but with nuggets that might hit the bulls-eye with atleast one of the thousand readers glancing through it religiously....

So that's about the brrrr...factor...Now with the brrrr...factor, comes the craving for chai..Now to be perfectly honest, I fancied myself as a coffee gourmet, till a time when my mother decided to end the nonsense of making a separate cup of coffee, every day before breakfast while the rest of the clan had tea - convincing me in her 'steel coated with silk' tone that tea drinking was healthier and more economical - in time and effort- for a working mother..

So there I went from a staunch coffee drinker to an occasional tea dabbler to slowly, a confirmed chai guzzler...The state, I belong to in India, Kerala, is known for its tea plantations and Malayalis who down cups of tea endlessly, perhaps even more than water...Politics is discussed in the local 'chai-kadas' or tea shops - leaders are made and slandered over cups of chai....Photo Courtesy

I have never been fond of dip-tea( though my name has often been mangled and brutalised into that phonetic form) - I associate it with the evil brew that is spewed by the vending machines every media office invests in..preferring their exotic coffee concoctions over this vile abomination..So every morning, before leaving home, whether I have breakfast or no, one whole mug of steaming tea, made really strong, with one whole teaspoon of tea leaves, and a teaspoon of milk powder( another indoctrination by Amma) and just a dash of sugar( indoctrination by Health magazines) and I'm ready to conquer the world. Meanwhile, the green tea fad also had caught on sufficiently for me to try a couple of mugs conscientiously every day in the hope that soon, I would be one-jean-size smaller.

On 28th Sept 2009, when I set out from Mumbai to London, little did I realise that the hot cuppa chai that I made at my tiny Mumbai apartment would be the last bit of nectar I would consume for an eternity to come...I never realised that those red cartons of Red Label Tea that I used to automatically pick up, from among the plentiful lining the shelves in my local supermarket, would become a packet that I'd yearn to lay hands on, in chilly Brighton...Something hot to constantly warm the freezing innards is essential and the weak and insipid dips that I see people around me indulging in boils my very Indian blood..

So now, I drink green tea infused with jasmine and camomile and dream about the time when my life had endless cups of chai on demand...made at home the old fashioned way...or with ginger and tea masala at the local tapris or at homes of North Indian friends...

Then, I had complained hard about how milky some people make their chai, the milk nearly thick enough with cream to gag on and sugar to cloy my tongue for a good hour...Today, when I sit shivering in my layers of clothing sipping the fine 'tea drinking' experience of the Earl Grey or the Green 'Healthy' Tea, my soul cries....Ohhhh for that hot steaming cup of milky Chai....

Ok, before I go, one last question to ponder over...compare this and the other picture ( and don't be lured by the fancy trappings..which cup would you stretch your hand out for??


  1. nice work deeps...

    was just having my routine cup of tea as i came across your blog..
    just realized that i too had started to take my daily cup of tea fr granted.
    through this medium,i will like to apologise to my dear cup of tea for my behaviour and promise to not to behave this way in future...:)
    and as for the question you have posted.. any time for the latter cup.. !!!

  2. aww..
    this reminds me of my own obession with filter coffee (tams + filter coffee = life's good)twice a day..when i get up and at 4pm sharp!
    but don't u get indian tea in the UK? I thought precious Indian commodoties such as these were available everywhere now! in fact there were rumblings in melbourne about MTR packets in their super markets :) seriously!

  3. I continue to suffer Nestea :( ah the tragedy of a vending machine. Green teas I believe are man's method of denying himself the simple highs of caffeine. I crave for the simple joys of darjeeling tea or hot apple tea in tea centre in south Mumbai.

  4. pavi..know what,i havent seen boxed tea leaves here, coz the brits dont think its worth it they only keep export quality...and anyways who's going to drink tea this strong like we do...moreover, those sold out indians here put three dip tea bags and try making it strong..i refuse to subject myself to that degradation..;)

    keep reading and commenting...
    u have a great sense of humour that always brings a smile on my face

  5. Rambler, u little ingrate, do you realise that if you so desire on a dull drizzly day in Mumbai, all u need to do is walk out of Kamala Mills to the tapri outside to have yumm-less sugar and milk-ginger cutting???? try that..:) The dainty cups of tea in Tea Centre will be forgotten..

  6. think it's probably a case of what you're used to. I've grown accustomed to very sweet milky chai in the six years that I've lived in India, but for me, a good old medium strong English mug of tea, with minimal milk and half a spoon of sugar, would knock spots of the tea we have at home. No disresepect to Indian chai or the tea-makers at home (and I suppose, if I wasn't so lazy, I could always get off my butt and make a cup of tea myself) but I'll give a vote for the English way of making tea: a little milk in the bottom of the cup, tea added between five and ten minutes after it's been made, and sugar offered as an option (in a sugar bowl). As for the tea service, I'd wheel that out for my maiden aunts but I'll settle for a mug - oh, and chocolate biscuits too please.

  7. My dear Deepthy,

    For me "chai" goes hand in hand with the sounds, smells and tastes of diverse India. A "cuppa tea" goes with sterile England.

    People all over the world, however, have to be grateful to the British for recognising the commercial value of tea and cultivating it in plantations.

    We stayed in Leeds for three years (1990-93) and I was as disappointed by their lack of appreciation for spices as I was by their lack of taste for tea.

    But that's because the English, unlike the Scots, Welsh or Irish, strike me as insipid. The only taste they've cultivated is for for war.

    I always have strong opinions. This is one of them. I'm sorry, Deepthy, that your tea post has provoked this outburst. But if anything, I promise to be myself while commenting on your blog.

    Peace and love,
    - Joe.

  8. Ditto.....I mean regarding that dip tea.
    I run away from the "Pot Tea" and the the dip tea.
    I think the pot tea idea stayed for some time when the British were here.
    I just love that strong tea that we get in Kerala and prepared just like the one depicted in the first picture.