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Chai Time
By Bianca Lucas
19 December 2011


My room mate stated she didn’t like chai.

I almost passed out.

We were in our hotel room in Delhi day 1 of a 14 day trip, lucky for me the bed was close by and I was able to sit down on it and catch my breath before I could hastily check “where have you had chai before? In India?”

“No”, Miss Jane replied, “only home in Australia”.

“Oh No Miss Jane”, I replied. “That’s not real chai. That’s just watered down flavoured milk. You wait by the time you leave India, trust me you will be addicted” I boldly stated.

My love of chai started in 2010 the first time I visited India.

Amongst the memories I collected from that first trip, it is the times spent laughing and talking and getting to know people over a cup of warm, sweet, spicy chai marsala tea.

It’s one of the reasons I couldn’t wait to go back.

The tiny chai enclaves are the backbone of any small village or large city throughout India.

Bits of used tiny clay cups litter the streets. Normally one who abhors litter of any kind, I like to think of these remnants as pieces of an afternoon pick-me-up, a morning starter, a mid-morning treat.

Day one through the backstreets of Old Delhi, where tourists are rare and stores are crammed so tightly next to each other, and the noise and the colours could even have awakened Lazarus. Calm chaos at its best - And the first chai does not disappoint.

I’m torn.

Part of me wants to drink it so fast. Drink in the aroma I associate with this wonderful country. I’m so excited I almost want to douse myself with it. Cleopatra, it is reported, bathed in milk, right now I would gladly jump into a bath of this aromatic and soothing liquid.

Then there is the other part of me that wants to sit on my milk crate and savour each sweet drop.

The next few weeks are filled with drinking chai whilst on sailing boats, camping on the banks of the Ganges, late afternoon village walks, sitting in silk shops, and a first date respite of the madness of Pushkar during the camel fair.

Part black tea. Part cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, milk and lots of sugar, it seems equals a magic nectar.

Moments and memories again are made with new friends. Laughter is shared. Stories are swapped. Hearts are opened.  

Oh and yes, Miss Jane became a total convert and even makes her own now!!

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I can so relate to this love affair with chai, Indian chai of course. I can almost taste it!
Bobby Bhatnagar
good on you ! Jane..cup of chai is always so nourishing..by serving it in little cute clay pots they are going green too..no recycling material..
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