THE CHAIWALA

Achaiwala is known as a tea seller in the Indian sub-continent. You probably have seen many videos of them pouring the tea from all sorts of positions, but we wanted to give a big shoutout to every chaiwala with this short piece spotlighting them.

In in the sub-continent, chai is more than just a drink, it’s a way of life. Across almost every street corner in India, you will find chaiwala’s juggling steaming hot chai from height. Mostly served in biodegradable clay cups, or in small glasses, many people will be gathering around a stall to grab their morning, afternoon or evening chai. The delicious cuppa provides a much needed break from the daily hustle and bustle and brings people from all walks of life together. And yes, the stall with the biggest line the is normally best chaiwala in town.

Chai simply means tea, and wala indicates the person performing the task. They are an entrenpeirual group, often moving from city to city setting up their street side stall ready to impress the customers with their tea and skills. Some stalls have been passed down through generations, but now the younger chaitrepreneurs are taking the chaiwala concept to the next level with modernised infrastructure and a sustainable sourcing ethos.

There is no single recipe for masala chai, as every chaiwala/family holds strict control over their secrets. Masala refers to a combination of spices, however, many chaiwalas just use 1 or 2 spices such as ginger and cardamom in their brew. In addition, some vendors opt to use condensed milk or buffalo milk providing a more creamy flavour that the normal whole milk we find in supermarkets. Really no 2 cups of chai are the same and that’s what we love about it.

Some examples of the different chais are:

Kashmiri pink chai: Salty and sweet
Kesar Chai: Saffron
Pudina Chai: Mint
Tandoori Chai: Made in a tandoor (clay oven)
Sulumaini chai: Black tea with lemon
Cutting chai: Smaller stronger cup of masala chai

Next time you are travelling around the sub-continent, how many chai’s can you find?

Akhil Patel 07/11/2022

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