ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design

15. Chay pienghè? Would you like a cup of tea?

Due mani manovrano un bicchiere facendo raffreddare il tè sul bancone di un ristorante per strada

«Chay pienghé?» Would you like some tea? asks the assistant in the teashop, while carefully looking at his client’s thirsty gazes.
And again, “Chay pienghé?”, asks the hosts while doing the honors of the house. Chay-sellers work in the streets, competing with each other at every bus stops, rickshaw or train station. Some of the luckiest own a proper teashop in-between four walls, or in little huts, where they also serve a nice variety of snacks.  Tea-Peddlers “chayvallah”, carry wooden carts with them and move from a district to another, following their clients.

When you meet a chaywallah, you’ll smell tea and spices aromas blending with a trace of the kerosene that fuels the burner; with quick movements, he pours the chay in several glasses in a row, keeping a distance to cool down the drink. Clients await, smoking a biri – typical Indian cigarette made with tobacco wrapped in a dry leaf – or chit-chatting with each other. After drinking, they wash their hands and their mouths and leave some coins on the table. Price varies from 3 RP in villages up to 10 RP in some expensive metropolis.
Recipes may vary depending on where you are. From north to south, there are infinite ways to make a proper tea. Common chay is prepared by boiling water, milk and a lot of sugar together, adding a cheap quality tea powder in it after a while. This recipe may be spiced-up with some fresh ginger or, sometimes, cardamom’s seed. You might have heard about masala chay, less common but suitable for cold seasons. In fact, it is enriched with a special blend of masala, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamom, cinnamon (known for their disgetive properties) and black pepper (a popular anti-flu).
Noonchay, however, it’s completely different: this is a typical Kashmirian preparation flavored with salt, and no sugar at all.
Despite its extraordinary diffusion, tea’s origins are still unknown. Some people say that chay was drunk since time immemorial by tribes. For sure, tea is known for its healing properties as an ayurvedic medicine.
But chay’s origins are still not clear, and they are hard to trace before the English India Company started to mass cultivate for export purposes and local selling. Maybe it was them to introduce the common practice of the tea break to boost the market.
India developed a unique way to drink tea, and made an authentic ritual of social gathering out of it.


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