It can be rightly said that Chai keeps Indians high. A cup of tea in India is served with laptops running, friends conversing, talks, dates, and even fights. To say that India adores tea is an understatement, and does not do credit to the country’s passion for the beverage. You may relax in a nice nook and discover this favourite drink in your hands while enjoying the life around you, whether you visit a roadside shack or a high-end mall.
Chai is not just one of the oldest drinks in history, but it is also India’s most popular beverage & the country consumes 837,000 tonnes of tea every year!
Tea is a common beverage in India, and Indians love their cup of tea. Tea drinking is extremely important in India, and Indians must have their cup of hot, steaming tea first thing in the morning to activate their senses and refresh themselves. In fact, some claim that tea is a far more popular beverage in India than coffee. Many Indians consider tea to be a comfort drink, and you can often find them relishing a warm cup of tea with pakoras on rainy days (a type of fried snack).
Tea drinking has become an important part of Indian culture over the years. It is thought to be a way of life. And if you take away tea drinking from India, you’re taking away the heart and soul of this lively and beautiful country.
Tea (or chai as it is called in most North Indian languages) may be found almost everywhere in India. Despite the fact that there are many different varieties of tea available, the ‘railway tea’ variety is by far the most popular. This is essentially a cheaper variant (Rs.2-Rs.5 per cup) that is sweet and refreshing once you get used to it. Tea leaves, milk, and sugar are brewed together and served boiling hot in this style of tea.
Masala chai is another popular tea variety in India, with spices added to the tea during the preparation. Ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and black pepper are typical spices. This style of tea, on the other hand, does not appeal to everyone, and it takes some time to develop a taste for it. Masala tea (meaning “spices tea”) is popular in Central and Northern India primarily because Eastern Indians prefer their tea without spices. Indians can’t live without tea, yet they may not realise how it protects us from disease. Tea prevents blood clotting in the body, lowers cholesterol levels, and deactivates cancer promoters. Tea also includes natural fluoride, which aids in bone and tooth health.
Besides being emotionally connected to the people, tea is currently at the focus of politics too. When our current PM Narendra Modi’s political campaign “Chai Pe Charcha” (conversation over tea) was launched in 2014 to support his prime ministerial candidacy in India’s Lok Sabha elections, it really played a crucial role. This effort brought 1000 tea stalls in 300 cities under its cover, allowing Narendra Modi to connect with common working-class people at a grassroots level. Tea has become India’s national flavour as a result of the campaign’s success.
Not only politics, but also Bollywood has embraced tea a lot. “From Shadi Ka Khayal” to “Cheeni Kum” Bollywood songs are inspired by tea. Chai and music are so intertwined that they may be siblings, combining to give you a complete cleaning experience unlike anything you’ve ever felt before. Bollywood songs have already bonded us to the highest levels of fanaticism, with our favourite actors doing incredible dance movements. But what happens when Bollywood songs have tea as a central theme? We’d say we get the best of both worlds!
Tea contributes to shaping the economy of India too. In the financial year 2018, the Indian tea business produced and exported more than ever before. The overall tea production was 1325.05 million kgs, up 74.56 million kgs from the previous year. The rise is around 6% in percentage terms.
The entire amount of tea shipped in the financial year 2017-18 was 256.57 million kgs, with $785.92 million in foreign exchange earned from Indian tea exports. In terms of rupees, the total value of exports in 2017-18 was Rs. 5064.88 crores. Iran, Pakistan, China, and Russia all contributed significantly to the increase in exports. The output of high-value orthodox tea and green tea grew in 2017-18, according to the Tea Board of India. In high-value markets like Iran, Germany, and Japan, these teas are in high demand.
According to IBEF reports, in FY19, total tea exports were US $830.90 million, while in FY20, they were US $826.47 million. After Kenya (including neighbouring African nations), China, and Sri Lanka, India ranks fourth in terms of tea exports. India was the world’s second largest tea producer in 2019, with 1,339.70 million kgs produced. Tea production was predicted to be 16.05 million kgs in January 2021. From April 2020 to February 2021, total tea exports were US $702.51 million, including US $60.18 million in February 2021. Teas from all over the world are grown in the nation, including CTC tea, orthodox tea, green tea, and organic tea. Unlike many other tea-producing and exporting countries, India produces both CTC and traditional teas, as well as green tea. India produces high-quality speciality teas with distinct aromas, strengths, colours, and flavours, such as Darjeeling, Assam Orthodox, and the elevated Nilgiris.
I remember my first sip of chai when I was 8 years old, and even now, as a 21-year-old grown-up girl, I am still smitten by its aroma. It has become an addiction for me and, to be frank, I love this addiction. It always takes away my tiredness & anxiety.
So, the next time you reach sleepily for your morning cup, or receive an invitation to share a version of the brew with your colleagues, classmates, or loved-ones, or even stock up on the biscuits you like to dunk in your preferred poison, remember that you’re drinking history, solidarity, democracy, diversity, and popular culture all rolled into one cup.
Written By: Swati Sahoo