India is a land of tea-holics

the indian chai

India is a land of tea-holics. Having tea is a kind of ritual in India! Chai, what tea is more informally known, has evolved from a common man’s beverage to a whole new way of life for today’s young and old. Great Chai can often be found in Indian restaurants along with great food. It is reflective of the cultures and values of the people and is very much an integral part of the sub continent.

Chai is a tea based beverage that came about the turn of the century when drinking tea was considered an elite affair. It is a centuries-old beverage which has played an important role in many cultures. Finding the initial flavor strong, the beverage was experimented with by adding milk, spices, sugar etc… and thus Chai was born.

Chai from India is a spiced milk tea that has become increasingly popular throughout the world. Chai has no rules. You can make it the way you like. Drink it the way you like. Even drink it whenever you like. It’s got no stiff upper lip rituals and spares you the embarrassment of not knowing the difference between mocha and a macchiato.

Tea had been known for millennia in India as a medicinal plant, traded with the Chinese for spices, but was not drunk for pleasure until the British began to establish plantations in the 19th century.

In 1824 tea plants were discovered in the hills along the frontier between Burma and the Indian state of Assam. The British introduced tea culture into India in 1836. At first they used seeds from China, but later seeds from the Assam plant were used. Only black tea was produced until recent decades.

Many industry analysts are predicting that Chai will eventually become as popular and common as coffee lattes and cappuccinos. India was the top producer of tea for nearly a century, but was displaced by China as the top tea producer in the 21st century. While India is the largest consumer of tea worldwide, the per-capita consumption of tea in India remains a modest 750 grams per person every year.

In the past three years we’ve seen a phenomenal growth in the popularity and interest in Chai. Chai has become very common at over-the-counter specialty beverage shops and there is a growing line of prepackaged consumer products. There are a number of foreign brands such as those of Tetley and tycoon that along with Indian enterprises have created powerful position in the tea bazaar.

Chai is spreading across classes and has been constantly evolving. The flavor of Chai may change from one region to another, but the ease at which it brings people together never will. It is enjoyed by all classes alike. The warmth and casualness that is associated with this beverage is what makes it so exceptional.

ritu naiya

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