Today’s millennials recognize tea as the beverage of choice to stay awake for studies or during late nights at work. However, they would be pleasantly surprised to know that this enriching beverage has had a long and nostalgia-filled history behind it. No wonder that everyone from kings of the older times to state heads of modern-day democracy prefer tea to be integral to their daily lives.
Of course, we can discount some exceptions where tea samosa bills in government offices worth 1 crore in 18 months have caused a huge furor about the way taxpayers money is being spent!
Don’t believe us when we say that the humble cup of chai is a great hit with India population? Then check out these eye-opening stats and facts
- In 2016, global tea market was valued at $46,392 million and is projected to reach $67,751 million by 2023.
- India’s total tea production stood at 1250 million kg. Of this around 16% is exported and 84% is consumed locally.
- India is the 6th largest tea exporter with a 7.5% share totaling to $591 million worth of exports in 2017
- The North-East (Darjeeling, Dooars in Assam) and South (Nilgiris) are pre-dominant tea producers in India.
- 2 popular methods of tea production include
- CTC (Crush, Tear, Curl) – used primarily in tea bags
- Traditional – used in tea grains/powder
The story of tea in different parts of India
Here are some ways we have seen and continue seeing chai emanate in different cultures, different settings, and different geographies:
Some variations apart, the essence of tea remains constant whether at the roadside chai wallah or a lush hotel – tea, milk, sugar (and spices; Yes, in India we like even our drinks to be laden with spices)
2 – First tea
The native tea plant was first discovered by Scotsman Robert Bruce in 1823 in British-ruled Assam. By 1830, the plant had reached commercial production in Calcutta. It not only helped the British satiate their love for tea locally but also helped reduce dependency on Chinese tea exports. Nowadays we see different variations of tea like Green Tea with Tulsi, Spiced tea, or Tea Masala.
3 – Delivery
Old timers in the tea business remember the tradition of delivering chai to small establishments. However, with the rise of glass facade buildings, they can no longer enter. But who can stop a chai lover from coming out for a small break of cigarette and tea?
4 – Ginger
This spice is typically used in North and West India where the winters tend to be harsh. Ginger helps in keeping the body warm and provide a range of health benefits
5 – Online tea
Just like every other product, even tea is being delivered with online ordering! However, we can safely say that it cant match the sense of satisfaction of a freshly brewed cup of tea that is prepared in front of our eyes.
6 – The nights and the tea
Be it Durga Puja in Calcutta, Ramzan celebrations in Hyderabad, or call centers of Gurgaon, or late-night cramming for exam, the late evening and night time setting warrants a hot cup of tea for company.
7 – Kulhar
Earlier tea used to be served in clay kulhar (in Hindi, or Bhar in Bengali). These clay pots are still famous in some pockets like Kolkata, but at almost all other places, the serving vessel will be a steel tumblers, glass, plastic cups or ceramic cups.
8 – Family business
It is not surprising to see many roadside tea vendors on the business for multiple generations. Though the effort is taxing, the satisfaction of serving incredible tea to local patrons is simply amazing.
9 – Trains and chai
Long distance train travel is synonymous with shrill hooting of ‘chai chai chai le lo’ by travelling tea vendors carrying hot kettles and plastic cups. Vendors often memorize the train timings and be available fully equipped when the outstation train is about to come in.
Popular tea memes stirring up the social media
“If you are cold, tea will warm you If you are too heated, it will cool you If you are depressed, it will cheer you If you are excited, it will calm you” - William Ewart Gladstone
That’s exactly the sentiment echoed by these social media memes where the tea is the hero of the image
1 – Chai Meme 1 - Popular Bollywood dialogue from a recent flick aptly sums up the emotion behind the ‘lagaav’ we have for our chai
2 – Chai Meme 2 – Why would Munnabhai be left behind in praising that loyal friend that brings tea for you
3 – Chai Meme 3 – Tea gives superpowers. Don’t believe us? Check out this meme, stay calm, and have 10 glasses a day
4 – Chai Meme 4 – This is something that all commoners can relate to. AAh. The absolute bliss of almost burnt roadside tea!
5 – Chai Meme 5 – This is the ultimate reply from a tea lover who prefers it over coffee any day
6 – Chai Meme 6 – The clever meme tries to add layer of information with a simple meme. A tea fanatic is ready to travel any distance to find the perfect glass of tea. Here he is shown travelling to the ‘gaanv’ that supposedly has the best tea
To sum it up nicely – Chai is the drink that we Indians simply can’t live without!