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Tea For Two? Or Three, Or More…

Nothing beats a nice cup of tea, wouldn’t you agree? Especially when it is accompanied by a couple of biscuits, a good chat and a sit down. The coffee chains might not concur with the rest of the nation, but drinking tea will always have a firm place in our hearts. Whether it’s PG Tips, Earl Grey, Ceylon, Darjeeling, mint or green tea, we all have our preferred hot tipple, and have done for many years.

Tea time
Image: flickr.com/photos/edgarbarany

And it’s not just the UK population that is a nation of tea lovers, India and China are pretty fond of a good cuppa too. China is the global leader when it comes to tea, producing and consuming more tea than any other country in the world. And coming in a close second is India. As a country they consume around 837,000 tonnes of it every year and tea is the national drink.

There are a number of reasons why tea (or chai, as it is known) is so important in Indian life. In India, guests are referred to as ‘emissaries of god’ and they can turn up unannounced at any time of the day. Good manners dictates that when they arrive you must be ready with some refreshments. And the drink of choice is almost always chai, the thick, sweetened, spicy, milky tea of India.

Tea is the perfect drink for India’s climate; when the temperature is high, drinking a hot cup of tea triggers the body’s natural cooling reflexes, which helps reduce your body temperature. Indians tend to drink a cup of chai at least twice a day – once in the morning and again in the afternoon (sound familiar?), as well as at various points in the day – and when visiting friends’ houses.

Chai is also served on most street corners and at crowded train stations around the clock in India. And the spectacle of seeing a street vendor serve a customer a cup of chai certainly makes for a good show. Vendors (known as chai wallahs) will pour chai from one glass to another from a height of around two feet to help bring the chai down to drinking temperature. And you’ll be hard pressed to find a vendor who spills a single drop.

The traditional way to serve chai is in small clay pots known as kulhar. These pots are still popular and used in Kolkata, West Bengal. Elsewhere across the country, however, the vessels of choice in which to serve chai tend to be plastic cups, tiny glasses or steel tumblers.

If you are partial to a nice cuppa, but are yet to sample a cup of chai, then it’s about time you did. And the best way to do that is to enjoy an authentic Indian meal first. London is home to one of the capital’s most revered fine dining Indian restaurants. The food served is a celebration of some of the finest cuisine of certain states and is best when finished with a delicious cup of masala chai.

 

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