Chasing the local Chai

As a long time fan and aficionado of coffee, I have tried to find all the information I can get about it. Of the many trivia I have gathered so far, the Turkish way of preparing coffee always had its special place in my mind. It was the Turks who said –“Coffee should be as black as hell, as strong as death, and as sweet as love”. The Turkish way of preparing coffee involves putting very fine ground coffee and water in an cezve, and bringing it close to boiling twice or thrice. More info here. I thought it to be a unique process which imparts a very different flavor to the drink.

What broke my perception of uniqueness about Turkish coffee was the fact that I saw a street vendor prepare the local Indian tea – chai (In places near Mumbai, half a cup of chai is also called cutting) outside my office. He had just started when my colleagues and I strolled up to him. During our typical office gossip, I noticed him pour milk and tea leaves (the commonly found, low-cost variety) in a saucepan and heat it three times to a near boil. He removed the saucepan just as the boiling started and replaced it back in less than ten seconds, and served us only after doing it thrice. I interrupted him quite abruptly, my curiosity having taken the best over me. He explained that this way of preparation gave the chai its unique flavor.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks! That is the reason many affluent people are addicted to this low-cost, common man’s drink. It scores over the dip tea or other similar available beverages not just because of its cost, but the flavor imparted by this unique preparation style which has been perfected by almost all street vendors across India. That is also the reason that chai made at home lacks a certain flavor found in the local street shop.

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3 thoughts on “Chasing the local Chai

  1. i know. same with coffee. reheating them or re-preparing tea or coffee made of used leaves/beans is actually harmful. but somehow, both the chai and turkish coffee seem to be beyond this cardinal rule 🙂
    as far as iranian chai goes, i think sumit can give a better idea. this is what i saw yesterday evening.

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