It is quite wonderful how a mere spoonful of certain dried leaves can create a beverage so loved worldwide. And with India being one of the top global tea producers, the country can be explored via a tea trail through its states. By Yagnoseni Das
In India, we do not disregard tea by just calling it just a beverage. As rightfully said, tea (aka our beloved chai) in India is an emotion and is a beverage best enjoyed in the company of loved ones. For some, the best cup of chai that they’ve had can be at home, aka the ‘maa ke haath ki chai‘ (tea that one’s mother has prepared), or it can be from a roadside tapri outside offices or maybe some tiny shack you discovered on a road trip.
It is an integral part of most Indian households. And like how every household might have its special way of making chai, different regions in India have their own special way of preparing tea as well.
Go on a tea trail across India with these 10 types of chai
Arguably the most famous types of tea in the Indian subcontinent, a humble cup of masala chai is what most Indians start their day with. The simple tea gets elevated with the aroma of spices such as ginger, cinnamon, elaichi and more, adding flavour as well as a boost of health to the simple beverage. This cup of goodness is easily available in all tapris and restaurants, but a warm cup of the familiar homemade masala chai with a fried snack or some rusk is unbeatable.
Assam tea, more locally known as Lal cha, is a common tea beverage had in most of Northeast India. This simple yet fragrant tea is made without milk, and is sweetened with copious amounts of sugar, to bring out the aroma and flavour of the actual tea. The tea is very minimal, which allows the drinker to appreciate the leaf in its full glory.
Butter tea or gud gud chai is a favourite in the hills and is had and served in most Buddhist monasteries. Different from the usual sweet teas, gud gud chai uses salt and has a rich, buttery taste, which makes the biting cold of the hills bearable and pleasurable.
As the name suggests, kahwa (or kehwa) has its origins in Kashmir. Green tea leaves are usually boiled with Kashmiri spices such as saffron, cardamom, almonds, cinnamon and cloves. This warm cup of tea does not use milk, and is a great companion for the bitter cold the paradise on earth can have. While mostly sweetened with sugar, kahwa can also be enjoyed without any sweetener as well.
Known by many names such as shir chai, gulabi chai, Kashmiri chai, or pink chai, the traditional beverage of Kashmir is more of a delicacy rather than a household drink. Brewed with special Kashmiri tea leaves, baking soda, milk and cardamom, this winter tea offers a different experience than the rest is definitely worth a try.
This Mumbai or Bombay special tea is called cutting chai because the flavour is so strong that it is only served as half a glass, which the drinker can sip on for long, to absorb its rich, spicy flavour. Somewhat similar to the usual masala chai, cutting chai is extremely popular in Mumbai and is often an offering at the roadside tapris.
This creamy beverage is a favourite across India, especially Hyderabad. Served in Irani cafes, this creamy concoction is made by cooking milk until it thickens into mava or khoya. The delicious beverage must be experienced at least once, for its milky, creamy flavour and aromatic tea, and is best enjoyed with bun maska.
Originating in Pune, this smokey flavoured chai is an experiment done right! Blended with aromatic spices and the smokey flavour from the tandoor, Tandoori chai has gained a considerable amount of love as more and more stalls serve it across the country.
A healthier preparation of tea, Karupatti or jaggery tea is made by substituting sugar with jaggery. This warm drink is flavourful as it is delicious and is a perfect companion for the winters.