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The chai story of India!

Chai is an emotion that has been a significant part, both in good and bad times, exam stress, hectic workdays, treating health issues, deep conversations about life and the likes. There is no end to this list to prove what a blessing it is, in all our lives. Like other dishes, India has a range of popular chai variations inspired by the local taste specific to different regions. While we all might have our own special chai to soothe our taste buds now and then, there is no harm in knowing more about the diverse tales of the extravagant tea palettes from all over the Indian subcontinent. Tea lovers, many other tea variations are waiting to be explored and this one’s going to be a beau-tea-ful ride!


Dive deep into this beautiful world of popular regional tea versions of Bharat. Read on…

1. Pan-India

  • Masala Chai: Masala chai is the most popular tea that holds a very special place in the heart of every Indian. The aromatic flavour of the tea is enhanced with the punchy essence of numerous desi spices like ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon among others. Cold winter mornings or monsoon evenings, a cup of this chai is unbeatable at all times. Making the perfect cup of masala chai is no less than an art and if you want to ace it, you should know the perfect breakdown of spices that goes into the process of making a cup of this lovely brew. 

2. North

  • Kahwa: Like many other admirable things about ‘heaven on Earth’ Kashmir, this tea is something Kashmiris love to sip on, almost throughout the year, but more during the super chilly winter months. The traditional way to prepare it is in a special brass kettle known as samovar with the special Kashmiri green tea leaves, exotic spices, nuts and the ‘red gold,’ kesar or saffron threads. So, whether you get a chance to visit this picturesque place or not, this beverage is a must-try for all.

  • Noon Chai: A beautiful pink-coloured salted tea, another traditional jewel from Kashmir, the land of extraordinary beauty. This one’s also called shir or gulabi chai because of its pretty pink hue that it gets from a pinch of baking soda used while brewing it. Its preparation is very unique as compared to others. This tea can soothe your senses with its aroma and velvety flavour. 

  • Butter tea: A popular tea variety that comes from the Himalayan region, also known as po cha in Tibet or gur gur chai in Ladakh. This tea is prepared with black tea leaves as the base and the addition of yak butter, salt, some milk, and water. Making it is a little complex, but the flavour is very special too. It acts as an energy booster and is healthier than many other types of tea.


3. East

  • Ronga Saah: Assam being the largest producer of tea in India with its beautiful tea gardens has a special flavour to offer. Also known as lal cha, ronga saah is a red-coloured tea common in Assamese households. It is prepared sans spices and milk and is the simplest one to make. You just need the right tea leaves for it to enjoy the eye-treating red shade. Sugar or no sugar is your choice, but enjoying a cup of this special laal rang ki chai is soothing and extremely healthy too. Pretty much the perfect tea for your soul! 


4. West

  • Irani Chai: There is a very interesting story behind the famed Irani Chai. It is said that the Persians came to Mumbai in search of a better life, then migrated to Pune and landed in Hyderabad bringing the delish Irani chai with them. Unlike the traditional way of preparing tea, you have to boil the tea leaves and the milk in separate containers. to make this one. And if you’re a true Mumbaikar, you will know that a cup of Irani chai is incomplete without the quintessential brun maska. For so many years, the Irani cafes have been serving this exceptional beverage with the same flavour. Time to take a sip of this popular chai in your home kitchen. 

  • Cutting Chai: I feel there’s a reason why Mumbai is called the ‘city that never sleeps and that reason is a glass of Cutting Chai. This half-filled glass of tea is enough to wipe off a day full of tensions or stress in a jiffy while refreshing the senses. Well, the magic not just lies in its preparation but its quantity. It is said that the chai is enjoyed best when had the ‘cutting’ way, so that it can be enjoyed more than 2-3 times in a day, in moderation and a guilt-free way! Cutting chai is not just tea, it’s a sentiment for all of us and just a sip of it is enough to make you fall in love with it. 


5. South

  • Sulaimani Chai: This sweet and sour chai is from South India, prepared from black tea without milk. A dash of lemon juice, some sugar and sometimes some whole spices brewed together to a golden gorgeousness is what makes for a perfect cup of Sulaimani Chai. It is said to be made popular by the Arabs who used to visit the Malabar Coast for trade purposes. The Arabian word ‘Sulaiman’ translates to ‘man of peace.’ As interesting as its story of origin is, the taste is much better, super hearty and energizing. Traditionally, it is served as a digestive beverage after heavy meals like that of biryani and salan, but is also considered an inherent part of Islamic marriages in Kerala. 

This is what the story of chai in India looks like! Diverse, rich and distinctive – it is safe to say that India is a country that loves tea a little more than many others. You can visit any part of this country and in every corner, every street and every household; you will definitely find a tea lover who is ready to have a conversation with you, over a pyali of chai!

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.