Sunday, November 2, 2008

Masala Chai in Jaipur

The best tea I had in Jaipur was at a little stall called Sahu Chai, on Chaura Rasta.
We had been walking for hours in the bazaars, and while it was fascinating, it was also very tiring. By 4:00 p.m., I was beginning to flag - so my friend Swati decided to take us to Sahu's, to perk us up.

It was literally a hole in the ground, a small shop sunken below street level. But Mr. Sahu was something of an artist. I watched him make our tea with a delicate hand, adding just the right amount of tea, spices, sugar and milk. He had an elaborate yet unhurried technique of stirring the tea as it brewed - perhaps he was watching over it for some secret sign?

Whatever the secret, the tea when it came was glorious - piping hot, milky sweet and flavoured with a mix of spices. It was served in a tall glass, and as I drank it, I felt the energy rush hit my bloodstream.
"Where would we be without tea?" I said to myself. I sent a silent thanks to the persistent Englishmen who first popularised tea in India. If it weren't for the dogged campaigns and door-to-door demonstrations of the Tea Association, Indians would have stuck to the traditional lassi, milk and water.

Of course, the English didn't quite bargain for how Indians would practically *reinvent* tea by adding cardamom, ginger, and even pepper to it! Nor did they realise we'd add the milk and the sugar alongside the water, boiling all of it merrily into a thick, aromatic cup. But as anyone who has tasted a good masala chai will tell you, there's nothing better on the planet!


Sandhya said...

yes, a cup of steaming hot tea made our Indian way brings comforts unmatched. And I must say here that I loathe the "chai tea lattes" that are served in US pretending to be Tea.

Super Babe said...

"chai tea" gets my nerves wrecking... just as "queso dip" and "carne asada steak" does ;)

But I agree. We were in India earlier this year and while in Jaipur, we got a bag with some masala chai that I've been carefully rationing... I don't want to run out, it is SOOOO good!!!! The only good thing we've found that is close to it is tea bags from a German organic brand... but it's just not the same.

Absolutely love your blog!!!

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