Because winters are here and the frequency of tea consumption has increased, here is a point by point description of the art of drinking tea.
The first rule of Chai is : You never refuse it.
Circumstances under which you are allowed to refuse it:
a) You already have a cup of tea in your hand.
b) The after taste from the last cup of tea has left you with acidity.
c) You are suspicious of the water used for making the tea.
The art of drinking tea, according to my father:
Before I delve into the art itself, there are a few things to note about my father.
a) He is a Chai lover. The reason why my family is not up there in the list of TATAs and Birlas is because we have spend all our resources on buying tea. Seriously. We buy tea as if our life depended on it. (which it does.) And the person who is responsible for creating that situation in our lives is my father. So naturally, he knows a thing or two about tea/teas.
b) There is a wide variety of Chai that exists in our family. For example: Green tea, Kashmiri Sheer Chai, Kahwa, Noon Chai, The regular sweet Chai that we Kashmiris fondly call: Lipton Chai, Lemon tea, Cutting Chai et al.
So according to my father, HAVE TEA:
As soon as you wake up.
Right after you bathe.
When you reach office at 9:30 a.m.
At 11:30 a.m.
Right after lunch. (Nobody wants to fall asleep at their work desk, you know.)
Evening tea with colleagues at 5 p.m.
After you are exhausted due to the traffic on your way back home.
After you freshen up and sit down to watch the evening news (The Indian evening news= people shouting and accusing each other. No one wins though)
One last cup if it isn’t dinner time yet.
Exception: I feel a bit anxious. Can we have some green tea before bed?
Seasons and special occasions for Tea:
It is too hot outside, let’s have some tea.
It is raining outside, let’s have some tea.
The temperature has dropped considerably today, let’s have some tea.
It is my birthday, let’s have some tea!
It is your birthday today, let’s have some tea!
Sharmajee’s son got a job with a great package, let’s have some tea!
So you want to study for four more years? Will somebody bring me a cup of tea?
I just sent this funny video to your uncle, let’s have some tea!
She has passed her exams, let’s have some tea!
(You get the drift, right?)
Exception: When you are travelling in the train, you can have chai at every train station! Hell, have tea from every vendor who passes by!
Which tea for which occasion/time of the day?
Bed tea: Green tea.
After a bath: Lipton Chai.
For breakfast: Kashmiri Sheer Chai.
At the office (all day): Cutting chai.
Back from office: Noon Chai
Before dinner time: Keep ’em Liptons and Green teas and lemon teas coming!
When guests arrive: Kahwa tea
Black tea is for writers.
Masala chai is for sick days.
And to quote him, “I do not understand why youngsters consume so much coffee these days!”
Accompaniments with Chai:
The second rule of Chai is: You never drink it without snacks. Unless, it is the green tea.
Kashmiri tea supplement: The classic Sot which is toasted, ground rice/corn powder.
Kashmiri Tschot: The Rice flour crepes and rotis.
Rich Kashmiri bakery goods like Kulcha, Khatai, Roth, Katmal, Taelwor. (The list is endless!)
Biscuits from any bakery.
When presented with German bakery items: who eats all this?
The beloved Navrattan namkeen.
You can go for the ‘Kashmiri mixture’ as well. (That is a given)
The neighbours are making PAKORAS. Why aren’t we?
Did somebody say SAMOSA?
The third and the last rule of Chai is: You never waste a cup of tea, no matter how badly made it was. You remember it though. You remember it and you practice making excuses for not having tea at that person’s house ever again! (One has to be polite, you know.)
Did you know that there is an art of choosing the right tea set? (I am still learning to pick the right one.)
An encyclopaedia of Kashmiri beverages and bakery: To be posted soon.
Have any questions about tea? Post them in the comments and we’ll get the expert to answer them for you 🙂
Photographs by Niyati Bhat. (Copyright 2015)