Indian Chai- From roadside to tea lounges


Indian Chai

A Tale of Traditional Indian Chai

Indian Chai has been brewing perfect moments for bonding for all of us for ages. Either be it spending some time with your partner or catching up with old friends or maybe some professional discussion with colleagues. But in the age of social media, when chit-chatting has taken a digital cover, tea conversations were almost in danger of fading away into oblivion.

But then, you know what a cup of Indian tea can do. To give people their sweet little tea-chats back, the roadside brew has entered the upscale, eclectic, and funky indoors in the form of tea cafes and lounges. Our ‘Indian Chai’ has found a cosy niche for itself in upmarket chai outlets, boutiques, and lounges

Most of these boutiques run full-house through-out the day. While their main clientele is youngsters, there is no dearth of business meetings and corporate bulk bookings. Though Indian Chai has been India’s favourite drink since eternity, what these tea lounges have done is to bring different varieties of it to the forefront.

With your regular ginger, cardamom, masala, paani Kum types right on the top of serving menus, these cafes also serve Darjeeling’s First Flush, Assam orthodox, Munnar Green, White Indian Chai, Nilgiri Oolong, Silver Needle for the connoisseurs. Some of them serve many varieties of Indian tea including some of the most exotic ones.

Interestingly, what makes these modern-day ‘Chai tapris’ special is their rootedness in old ways and traditions. They might have high-end, Wi-Fi enabled, air-conditioned interiors for hip youngsters but they still offer Indian Chai in clay pots better known as ‘Kulhars’ and cutting glasses along with quirky cutlery. They may offer cupcakes and pies but their sell-outs are always undoubtedly those samosas and bun-maskas.

World Famous Indian Masala Chai recipe

Masala chai

Let’s talk about India’s most famous Masala Chai. Known for its great taste and high anti-inflammatory properties, Masala tea, which is also known as ‘spiced tea’, has been there from generation to generation as a treasured tradition.

Masala tea has evolved into many variations with nearly every household. Savoured by millions in India, masala tea is sold across the country by chai wallahs and tea vendors, who pour the tea like a pro from big teakettles into small cups.

Masala Chai Recipe

Generally, in India, masala tea is prepared with black tea. Traditionally, it is made with multiple spices. With a plethora of spices like clove, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and peppercorns, Masala tea is your instant pick me up.

Though you can find multiple tea blends in the supermarkets, making your own cup of masala chai is easy and more satisfying. So here’s the DIY step:

  • Take 2-3 pieces of each of the following: Green cardamom, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and fennel seeds.
  • You can either crush them coarsely or grind them together in a blender and keep it aside.
  • Pour milk in a heavy pan (with handle). While you stir the milk occasionally, put sugar, ground spice mixture, crushed or grated ginger, and black tea leaves
  • On low heat, let the tea boil for 3 minutes so as to infuse all the flavours.
  • Now serve the hot masala chai in a cup or “cutting chai” glass or kulhad and enjoy.

Winters & Tea: An Eternal Love Affair

Many people across the globe like to wake up to a freshly brewed hot cup of tea. This ritual becomes all the more vital on cold winter mornings when tea becomes a source of warmth and comfort to beat the chill, especially in India where the majority cannot imagine a winter morning without a cup of #MyChai.

So what makes this relationship between tea and winters eternal? There’s something more than just the hot brew


Healthy & hearty mornings!

Tea is a great way to add to your healthy lifestyle. In winters, when your body is vulnerable to flu and cold, this wonderful brew provides the much-needed warmth

A drink full of warmth, love & energy

Snuggled in a blanket when it often becomes hard to step out of bed, your steaming cup of tea can prove to be an effective stimulant to charge you up for the day ahead. A morning brew gets you started whereas a late afternoon cup can give you a dash of energy and mental alertness to continue for a few more hours

Adding different flavors from your kitchen like some ginger or a few cardamoms can make a regular cup of tea really special. Traditionally, ginger has been used to support overall digestive health. Indeed, the aroma of tea helps in looking forward to the day

Spice it up and see the magic

Add a dash of spice to your cup of tea and it can be helpful to you. Try black tea with peppermint or lemongrass to experience one of its most flavorsome and effective forms.. Try Jaggery Tea and you will be surprised by its wonderful taste.

So, the winters are here and so is the tea. What are we waiting for?

Pour a rainbow from a teapot—

drink of happiness and love

warmth, calmness, and peace

breathe in the curling steam of dreams.

~Terri Guillemets

Hot brew

Indian Tea: A Chronicle from Past

In India, tea isn’t only a hot drink made with water and leaves; it is an integral part of the rhythm of life, a consistent and unifying presence in an incredibly diverse country. Whether served in a plastic cup, earthenware clay pot, or a silver-plated kettle, every cup of Indian tea is a result of a unique style of brewing and spicing the beverage.

Tea is called chai in Hindi, and draws its origin from the word ‘cha,’ meaning tea in Chinese. The story of tea in India is a long one. Folklore speaks of Prince Bodhidharma, who traveled from India to China in 475 AD to spread Buddhism. The prince committed not to sleep during his mission but was soon overcome by exhaustion. Furious at his weakness, he plucked a few leaves of a tea shrub and ate them. His mind suddenly cleared and focused; he resumed his meditation.

Tea began its modern saga in the early 18th century when the British Raj started to set up tea plantations in India, primarily for its export. An aggressive campaign by the India Tea Company promoted the provision of ‘tea breaks’ for workers in an attempt to increase domestic tea sales.

With the increase in overall tea sales came an increase in the addition of spices to the mix by chai-walas (tea vendors), who diluted the tea to keep costs down. Despite the disapproval of the Indian Tea Company, masala chai quickly became the preferred beverage.

5 Amazing Facts about Tea We Bet You Didn’t Know

As the chilly winters creep in, one would want nothing more than to curl up in a blanket sipping a hot cup of tea. During a hectic day at work or for some quiet contemplation, tea is the only comfort beverage you’ll ever need. Our beloved tea is much more than just a drink; read on to discover five amazing facts that only a true tea aficionado would know!

  • It’s no secret that early morning tea cravings are a reality. Ever wondered what’s the reason behind this? Well, tea contains caffeine which is responsible for an increased level of alertness making you crave a cup of tea to kickstart your day.
  • Believe us when we say that tea can be your best companion during those exhausting all-nighters. You know now that caffeine is responsible for the sudden energy kick but there’s more. Tea is enriched with antioxidants which apart from being healthy also help prevent the much dreaded ‘caffeine crash’. Where there’s tea, there’s hope!
  • Our indigenous ‘Darjeeling tea’ is world-famous for its flavor and referred to as the ‘Champagne of teas.’ Wonder why? Well, it is highly valued because it is grown only in Darjeeling and that too within an area that’s less than 70 square miles large! This makes it a novelty among tea fanatics the world over.
  • Tea comes second only to water in terms of worldwide consumption and it was the most important reason for bridging the East-West divide. Tea has been a boon to the shipping industry as traders in earlier times worked to develop better and faster ships to transport as much tea as possible to the west.
  • While most of us might believe that slurping your tea is too tacky, there’s good reason to do so. It is believed that slurping increases the amount of oxygen in the tea, improving its flavor and allowing greater contact with your taste buds. So slurp away without shame!

After knowing these wonderful facts, we’re sure your love for tea grew a little more. So go on brew yourself a cup and let its taste take you on an imaginary voyage!

Categories Tea

Making the Most of a Tea Estate Visit

The Indian tea estates attract the lovers of tea and nature alike, and so, the opportunity to visit one, always promises to be memorable. There are thousands of tea estates employing millions of tea workers across the tea-producing regions in the country – Assam, Darjeeling, Nilgiri, Munnar, Sikkim, Kangra, Dooars Terai, and many more.

Here we are to help you out with a few tips to let you make the most of your visit to a tea estate:

  • Be prepared to ask questions
    The guides are usually from the estates and are happy to answer questions about the production process which is fascinating in itself. They also have a good knowledge to share about the rich and varied history of the estates. So be prepared with your queries.
  • Ensure accessibility
    Most estates are located away from urban centers, making accessibility a concern. Travel by road and rail should be planned well in advance. Once you are in the estates, you may attempt walking for few kilometers for a feel of adventure.
  • Be sure to time the visit carefully
    If you’re looking to take home photographs of the tea-pluckers at work, remember that there are several breaks during the day as well as the year. So visits during breaks, holidays, and dormant season should be avoided.

Tea & Spice it up with Arabian nights

Angshuman Paul, Tea-entrepreneur & tea estate owner, Girish Chandra Tea Estate, A.C Paul Agricultural Company

It’s interesting to see how ethnic practices gradually bring in new vistas for contemporary organizers while they are hosting various functions. For the month of February this year, I have indulged intensively in such ethnic oeuvres and would be obliged to share them with you at a glance. Let me take you to Dubai where my host welcomed me with an intensive Moroccan Black tea. Tea in the UAE has been re-contextualized in the traditional Arabic way, so although my host Ishan Ray Choudhury (an avid Moroccan tea drinker who’s also nostalgic about Darjeeling tea) introduced me to this Moroccan tea, my quest was to be part of the organized traditional Arabic tea and spice tours. Before I mention more about these Arabian delicacies and their Indian connection, it will be nice to provide a platform that relates Moroccan tea with India. Moroccan tea unlike Indian black tea is sweeter (no need to add additional sugar).

Bucked up with this mission, I traveled to the Arabian desert on a tour that instills in the traveler a deep appreciation for Bedouin culture. Chaiwallahs have a beautiful bonding in Bedouin cuisine, which commences with the ceremonial pouring of tea or coffee from Dallas (traditional Arabian-pots) and when I said I belong from Darjeeling, a few of them enquired about Darjeeling tea. Indian tea has a fervent flavor, which was not present in Arabian tea, as Arabian tea is garnished with excessive boiling, making the flavor bit bitter. But you could harmonize it with Indian tea as lots of Indian brands are being exported to Dubai (I found that Tata Tea has a maximum retail presence).

It is as if the chai patterns hint at personal geographies, as they spread out, mapping unchartered courses. For instance, the same withered CTC or Orthodox tea from India has adopted its own pattern in Bedouin cuisine. But this article would not be complete if we don’t talk about Arabic cuisine. Arabic Bedouin dishes are dominated by red-chilli & turmeric spices, which are imported from foreign lands (read India & Pakistan). Chili Pepper Spice, Cayenne Pepper Spice, and Black Pepper Spice are three spices, among the long list of spices that are appreciated among the Arabs as heat-adders. And when it comes to the culinary bonding between Indians and Bedouins, both of them use Chili Pepper Spice. Whether it be in an Indian spice blend (like Curry Powder hot & Cayenne Pepper Spice) or in an Indian dish itself (like Tandoori Chicken), Indian cooking is revered by any heat lover.

But if reading so much on extreme hot spices is creating a phobia in you with respect to Arabian cuisine, then let me tell you that Arabians in fact go gentle while using them in camel meat, Arabian fish curry, and Shawarmas. Although Shawarma is a Lebanese dish, there are a number of Shawarma shops in Dubai & Saudi Arabia, and my experience in a few of these shops indicates that red chilies from India are ground before being used to marinate the meat for Shawarmas. These dishes are served with Moroccan Black tea and often in combo offers. It might be weird as we are used to combos of pizzas with carbonated drinks/juices but even Moroccan tea with a Lebanese dish is equally enjoyable.

Some quality ‘Temi’ tea time

Angshuman Paul , Tea-entrepreneur & tea estate owner, Girish Chandra Tea Estate, A.C Paul Agricultural Company


At the onset of this year, I was in Temi Tea Garden with my family (all of them are from the tea fraternity). I am a contemporary empiric when it comes to exploring the creative epicenter of any place that I visit, and that starts with the ethnic frame of that place. It was a freezing, foggy winter morning of January when we passed the Temi forest (located in South Sikkim) to reach the grand Temi Tea Garden. Our home for three days was the Cherry Resort, situated in the heart of the picture-perfect landscape of Temi tea garden, and the wafts of the cool, fresh Himalayan filled my lungs. My host welcomed us with the intensive Orthodox Black tea from Temi, and now it’s time to harmonize with ethnic history. Sikkim was merged with the Indian Union in the way back in 1960, and to accommodate Tibetan refugees from the nearby Tibetan Refugee camp in Rabongla, the Government of Sikkim identified the Temi forest to establish this tea estate.


With this mission in mind, the Sikkim Government started Temi Tea Garden with a group of Tibetan workers in 1968, and in 1974, they hired a British manager – Mr. Young – to manage the garden. From Mr. Young to Mr. Ravi Kumar (the present manager), Temi has been engaged in the production of Orthodox Black Tea from a garden that’s spread across an incredible 500 acres of land. On an evening cup of tea with Mr. Kumar, he shares his nostalgia with Temi tea and how tea manufacturing in Temi is more of an art than science. Unlike CTC (Curl, Tear, Crush) Tea from Bengal, Temi Orthodox tea starts its construction directly from withering and in our next day visit to the factory, my uncle (an expert in CTC tea manufacturing) points out the differences in the withering process of Temi tea as compared to CTC tea. For instance, the troughs for withering CTC tea are straight & parallel, but in Temi tea, the channels are slanting.

During my visit, I was happy to note the crucial role that women were playing in the tea manufacturing process. In Temi, I saw the packing is done in wooden tea boxes by a group of Mongolian (read Tibetan) women. In fact, during my visit to the garden, I noticed women laborers also managing the construction of the road that’s spread across the tea garden and separates the garden from the forest. Another strong distinguishing factor of the tea bushes over here is that they have a useful clonal character and are generated from Chinary seeds, which are ideal for the manufacturing of flavored teas. They have helpful tip content, and a touch of bloom is evident. This is not palpable in the Assamese species of seeds, where the branch spreads from well above the ground level, unlike the Chinary seeds, where the office covers just above the ground level.

Temi has three types of tea – Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (FTGFOP), Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe (TGBOP), and Golden Orange Fanning (GOF). The first two comprise 75 percent of total production and are exported to countries like Germany, UK, and Japan.

My last day in Temi was a bit depressing as the weather was too cold, with no sun making the departing moment more emotional. But if you want to enjoy tea and cherries, then do visit the Temi garden during spring. I was told that Dalai Lama extended his stay in Temi as its beauty enamored him.

Caffeine free Tea and coffee- the American way!


Angshuman Paul , Tea-entrepreneur & tea estate owner, Girish Chandra Tea Estate, A.C Paul Agricultural Company

Caffeine free tea






Caffeine free tea in India

You can bond with America in many ways (even obesity) but when it comes to a cup of tea or coffee, Americans are beckoned by the caffeine-free concept. In a couple of National Parks, caffeine-free coffee cafes are attracting huge audiences. It was a delight to be in the Wright Brothers National Memorial Park in North Carolina and I enjoyed my first cup of caffeine free coffee in a nearby cafe. These coffees are sold by highlighting the eco-friendly concept. For someone who belongs to the tea-fraternity and understands the entire production process in and out, I frowned on how tea can be without caffeine? The hilarious part was that my host in North Carolina – Pinaki Dutta, who by birth is Indian – claims that herbal tea is caffeine free tea.

Interestingly, “white coffee” is made from orange blossom water and uses less quantity of coffee (but still I couldn’t make out how it could be caffeine-free). My initial indulgence with this so-called caffeine-free white coffee was after my long journey from the Luray Cavern and amidst the enticing coffee aromas in the snack bar. The evening couldn’t have been planned better. Back to work in Washington D.C I missed my white coffee and was mesmerized in the meditation centre of hotel Hilton, which welcomes you with a nice cup of caffeine free tea. A blend of American and Indian – some premium caffeine free tea blends, Indian mediation, and American branding – caffeine-free! Sounds heavenly indeed!

Herbal Tea

But if I keep the debate of feasibility of caffeine-free tea & coffee aside, then certain caffeine-free hot drinks are overwhelming. Here are a few of my recommendations. Herbal Tea – made perfectly from hibiscus, mint, or chamomile – are a delightful indulgence. Then caffeine-free coffee – Rooibos – is available in all departmental stores (some of them even sell with a Made in India tag). If you are guessing what is Rooibos, it’s a naturally sweet, woody, tobacco-flavoured beverage, making it a good alternative to coffee. I was also delighted to experience Ginger Honey Lemon Tea Tonic (as it uses extracts from tea), offered in Bern’s & Noble book store and perfect for chilly rainy days, and particularly soothing for sore throats. While I personally cherished these varieties due to the novelty factor, the Americans seem quite hooked to the ‘caffeine-free’ concept. As they say – different strokes for different folks!

Purple tea potential in Assam

Dr. Pradip Baruah, Senior Advisory Officer (Principal Scientist), Tocklai Tea Research Institute, Jorhat, Assam

Dr. Pradip Baruah is a known name in the Indian tea fraternity and has done extensive research on the Assam tea industry. In this interaction with IBEF, he discusses the potential of purple tea production in Assam and the efforts being undertaken to leverage the same.

IBEF: What are the key health properties of purple tea and what practices need to be adopted for the manufacturing of this variety of tea?

Dr. Pradip Baruah: Purple tea offers a totally new type of tea to the world, which is very attractive with a unique color of the liquor and has many medicinal properties. Purple tea contains anthocyanins, which imparts the purple color to the tea leaves. It thus has all the goodness of tea, with additional health benefits of anthocyanins. It is also low in caffeine content than the normal black or green teas which is particularly looked for by many people. It offers an excellent new diversified product to the tea consumers around the world besides black, green, and white teas with certain high medicinal properties beneficial to human health. Purple tea can be manufactured both as black and green teas with purple-colored tea leaves.

Anthocyanins are flavonoids rendering vivid red to a blue color to fruits and vegetables. Research studies and human clinical trials suggest that anthocyanins possess anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic activity, cardiovascular disease prevention, obesity control, and diabetes alleviation properties, which are associated mostly with their potent antioxidant property. Out of these, cardiovascular disease prevention property is particularly significant. Anthocyanins appear to control cholesterol levels and blood sugar metabolism, as well as fight oxidative stress (a process known to play a key role in heart disease). Some of the important findings of the research on medicinal properties of purple tea presented at the ‘International Conference on Tea Science and Development’ at the Karatina University, Karatina, Kenya last year was – purple tea, besides being rich in anthocyanins also contains lower catechins and caffeine, and is high in antioxidant effects that provide anti-cancer benefits, and improves vision, cholesterol and blood sugar metabolism. Overall, purple tea is found to have cytoprotective effects on external oxidative stressors. In addition, purple tea also has all other enormous medicinal properties of tea, being produced from Camellia assamica.

Anthocyanin supplements are marketed for their health-enhancing properties and are also used as preservatives in the food industry. Purple tea plants with anthocyanin content will, thus, provide an alternative raw material from which these flavonoids can be extracted.

Purple tea potential in Assam

IBEF: Tell us about the potential of Assam to produce purple tea? How can it be leveraged going forward and how can the area under production be increased?

Dr. Pradip Baruah: The purple tea clone released in Kenya for commercial cultivation in Kenya, as TRFK 306 in 2011, was selected from the germplasm stock of Tea Research Foundation of Kenya. This important clone for Kenyan tea was originally selected from Assam and is an Assam variety. Such anthocyanin-rich purple teas are also found in Assam and wild purple teas were recently discovered in Karbi Anglong Hill district of Assam. I am informed of the availability of more such plants in Karbi Anglong Hills near Bokajan. But that area is yet to be visited. Such plants are also available in different tea growing areas of Assam, which are commonly known as ‘oxblood’, because of the color. I have been exploring tea growing areas of Upper Assam and found such purple tea plants in an area near Teok, close to Jorhat town, and another few plants near Dibrugarh. Newspaper reports at the national and international level on the possibility of producing purple tea in Assam have now generated tremendous curiosity and hope among the tea planters and small tea growers of Eastern India. They are eagerly waiting for the right kind of purple tea clone with high anthocyanin content to be available to them so that they can start production.

Tocklai germplasm collection already has several purple tea plants. The Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat, tea area also has purple tea plants in it. This area and the plants originally belonged to Tocklai. The scientists have to explore these for their properties and release the best possible plants from these and collections from the wild teas and old tea growing areas, for facilitating commercial production of purple tea, in the near future. Assam being the origin of naturally growing purple tea plants in diversified forms and also has all the favorable agro-climatic conditions, it is well suited for the best growth and production of promising purple tea clones. There is a possibility of even finding better plants naturally growing, in Assam- an area that is not yet explored fully. The particular clone, released by Kenya (TRFK-306) was under development by Kenyan Tea Research Institute for 25 years, but in the case of Assam, it has the advantage of being the origin of tea with large biodiversity and with the possibility of finding even better plants for purple tea production. As the demand for purple tea is likely to increase in India and globally with the better promotion in the near future, the production of purple tea can be taken up by both large and small tea estates. With all these advantages and possibilities, I am chasing a purple dream for the tea industry of India and I am very confident that it would come true very soon benefiting the entire humanity of the world with its medicinal properties. Not only purple tea – Assam and the Eastern India tea have great potential with traditional and handmade organic teas produced by the tribes and the small tea growers which are having exceptionally good qualities.

Purple tea plants in Assam

IBEF: Tell us about the role that the Tocklai Tea Research Institute has played through its R&D initiatives towards improving crop outcomes and farmer income across tea plantations.

Dr. Pradeep Baruah: Tea Research Association is an autonomous R&D organization funded by the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India, and the tea industry and is one of the oldest organizations in PPP mode since 1964.

Tocklai Tea Research Institute (TTRI, earlier known as Tocklai Experimental Station) is the oldest and premier institution on tea research in the world, established way back in 1911. Over the years, exhaustive research has been carried out in the fields of integrated nutrient management, agronomic practices for young and mature tea crop management including optimum pruning cycles, efficient chemical and biological control measures and testing of new molecules and for bio-efficacy against the major pests and diseases, plant physiology, biochemistry, the establishment of limits for pesticide residues and heavy metals, drainage management strategies, mechanization in tea, tea processing and manufacturing, and development tea by-products, etc. It has also carried out DNA fingerprinting using RAPD techniques in TV clones developed at Tocklai and their registration with the National Bureau of Plant Genetics in the country to protect their identity. Looking at the impact of climate change touching the tea industry also in North East India, Tocklai is working on the identification of physiological parameters influencing drought resistance and in identifying promising drought-resistant germplasm.

One of the major activities of the Tea Research Association popularly known as ‘Tocklai’ has been the strong Advisory Department spread across the major tea growing areas of Eastern India in eight zones. The Advisory officers keep visiting the various tea estates in their areas and provide on the spot advisories on immediate, short term and long term measures to be adopted by the tea estates with regard to various problems faced by them on-field management and to achieve sustainability. These visits and the regular bulletins issued on the practices to be adopted in-field management practices help the tea estates to undertake timely measures on maintaining the tea estate and to boost the tea productivity of the tea estates. Besides attending to the big tea estates, Tocklai supports the small tea growers also to get the awareness of the appropriate cultural practices to be followed to achieve higher tea yields from their small gardens and achieve higher income generation from tea.

However, the major contribution of Tocklai to the tea industry in North East India has been the development and release of high yielding clones and seed stocks for Assam, Dooars and Darjeeling which has helped the industry to improve the total tea production in North East India significantly. To indicate as an example, just in Assam valley the tea production has increased from 201 million kg in 1971 to 574 million kg in 2013.