Tea in India only gained popularity as a national beverage in the 19th century after the British began to create large scale tea plantations in order to ensure adequate supplies for their country’s growing demand for tea. India is one of the world’s largest suppliers of tea, and yet because of this very recent history, tea has not had time to appropriate any elaborate tea rituals like in Japan or China. Although not ritualized, tea is more a part of everyday life at home, work, on the streets and while traveling.
India consumes more tea than any other country in the world. Chai is the national drink in India and it is served literally on every street corner, and in restaurants ,especially in crowded train stations, where we can see people selling it at all times of the day and night. In any Indian house, guests are greeted by milk-tea and a sweet.
Tea (the chai) mostly consumed is strong black tea, in many cases spiced with ginger ,cardamom, fennel, cloves or other spices and sweetened with sugar and mixed with milk for a sweet and creamy beverage. This tea can be drunk alone, but is often enjoyed with a savory snack like samosas. Usually street vendors or train stations sell this tea in small clay cups that are only used once, and then smashed after use. With the time, the clay pots are now replaced by disposable paper cups. Whether enjoyed on the street or at home, Cha provides respite from the heat or weariness from travel or work.