India consumes more tea than any other country in the world, and is also the world’s largest tea producer. Chai (literally “tea” in many languages) is a major component of India’s rich tea culture, deep-rooted in everyday life. Most people in India drink several cups of chai a day, enjoying it in public places such as trains and streets. It is a family tradition in India to welcome your guests with cups of Chai, and every family has their own recipe and preparation method.
Chai plays a leading role in the current hit movie Slumdog Millionaire, being featured often in this affecting story of main character Jamal. Slumdog Millionaire was the big winner at the Golden Globes in January. As a participant on India’s version of “Who wants to be a Millionaire”, Jamal is often called “chai wallah”, which translates literally to “tea person”. In India, chai wallahs prepare tea over an open fire in small stands and stalls, typically serving chai in small clay teacups which they bisque fire over an open flame. These cups are thrown on to the ground and shattered when emptied — returned to the earth as a natural recycling program! For a demonstration of Chai being made in India, click here.
By most accounts, chai first hit the American market in the early 1960s in natural foods markets and cutting edge cafés, and its popularity continues. Bigelow Tea offers Chai for every palette: Spiced Chai, Vanilla Chai, Green Tea Chai and Decaf Spiced Chai. Go here to check it out. And for more stories of the Chai experience from India and throughout the world, the book The Spice of India is a great source. Here’s to “living the Chai Life”!