Cuppa tea anyone ?

tea help

Whether you are having a kadak Wagh Bakri chai from a solid mug that says ‘World’s Best Dad’, or delicately sipping green tea from a fragile cup for an ‘inside wala snaan’


Whether you are drinking from the saucer and sharing a cup (do dost ek pyali mein chai piyenge ! Isse dosti badhti hai !)

or having a few desperate sips of cutting chai during a night on call, from a place across the street from the hospital, which had very questionable hygiene…..

cuting chai

what you are consuming is best described by the inimitable Douglas Adams in the splendid trilogy of four books– The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

“No,” Arthur said, “look, it’s very, very simple…. All I want… is a cup of tea. You are going to make one for me. Now keep quiet and listen.”

And he sat. He told the Nutro-Matic about India, he told it about China, he told it about Ceylon. He told it about broad leaves drying in the sun. He told it about silver teapots. He told it about summer afternoons on the lawn. He told it about putting the milk in before the tea so it wouldn’t get scalded. He even told it (briefly) about the East India Trading Company.

“So that’s it, is it?” said the Nutro-Matic when he had finished.

“Yes,” said Arthur. “That is what I want.”

“You want the taste of dried leaves boiled in water?”

“Er, yes. With milk.”

“Squirted out of a cow?”

“Well in a manner of speaking, I suppose…”

“I’m going to need some help with this one.”

world tea consumption

Thanks to our childhood readings of Enid Blyton, tea-time will always be associated with jolly picnics involving boiled egg sandwiches and a cool lemonade bottle, packed in a basket by Nanny or then hot buttery scones and homemade jam served in the nursery by the fireplace on a winter evening. YUMMM!!


Centuries before globalization was a ‘thing’, China tea cups, Indian tea leaves and Jamaican sugar came together to help the British invent the concept of high tea!

The Americans then took it up a notch and came up with the Tea Party :), whose first day first show was held in Boston and involved the throwing of crates of tea from ships in the harbor, while shouting ‘No Taxation Without Representation.’

Not quite the peaceful cup that cheers….

tea am

Besides ‘Sound of Music’ where the von Trapp children use the repeating refrain of ‘’tea with jam and bread, jam and bread, jam and bread’ to escape the Nazis, there is only one Bollywood song I could think of that mentions tea, and in such a charming way too—Shaayad meri shaadi ka khayaal dil mein ayaa hai, isiliye Mummy ne meri tumhe chai pe bulaaya hai !

Well, even if no one’s Mummy is calling you, the monsoon has arrived in Mumbai , so go ahead and curl with an interesting book,  sipping adrak chai after a plate of kaanda bhajji.


The lovely leaves of Camelia sinensis give us this day our daily cuppa. (The local tea that is drunk in Africa is the Rooiboos, or the red bush tea and is a different plant altogether. It also has a soothing effect that helps the brain think, as Mma Ramotswe from Alexander McCall Smith’s delightful No.1 Ladies Detective Agency would agree).


Most people agree that Camelia is of Chinese origin and somewhere in the mists of time is the lost story of how it came to become the most popular drink across the globe. It is also a mystery as to when someone decided that adding cow’s or camel’s milk or salt and yak butter would be a splendid idea…..Some studies say that most of us make our tea incorrectly anyway…..

The Japanese have of course refined this whole thing to some quantum level into an elaborate tea ceremony. Each action such as how a kettle is used, how a teacup is examined, how tea is scooped into a cup – is performed in a very specific way. All these procedures are called, collectively, temae. The act of performing these procedures during a chaji is called “doing temae“.

japanese tea ceremony

I am sure the Japanese would recoil in horror at a well- known ad which used to say Dip dip dip. Add the sugar and its ready to sip. But if you are in Sheldon’s company don’t use the tea bags two at a time for dipping or you may be accused of being at a rave haha


Two fabulous tea ‘ceremonies’ that must be remembered include the one in Father Ted, the most brilliant satire/ comedy from Ireland

and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Alice where it’s always tea time !

mad hatter

Indians were so pleased when Tata (who already owned Wah Taj !) bought over Tetley Tea , thus returning that very British lifestyle symbol back to its Asian origins. But how many of us know that the original Tata built his fortune on the opium trade that resulted in wars and addiction and destroyed more than a generation of people across the continent ?!/2013/02/how-parsi-become-new-rich-elite-in-india.html

The tea leaves have been steeped (pun intended!) in a horrible saga of colonialism and exploitation (no surprises there). What makes it unacceptable to me is that this still continues! It seem that the workers on tea estates are no better than slaves or bonded labour, with very few benefits, healthcare and education facilities.


Some of them are so isolated that they have developed their own language.

industry cup of tea

Maybe we could stop contributing to this by switching to another hot drink. Maybe start drinking the good old doodh- haldi, now trendi-fied into ‘Turmeric Latte’. But then we are told that cow’s milk and white sugar are not exactly the healthiest of foodstuff…….

Perhaps we need a serious chai pe charcha to figure this one out.

chai pe charcha





7 thoughts on “Cuppa tea anyone ?

  1. मेरी चाय कभी नहीं दूंगी…….. प्राण जाये पर चाय न जाये….. And Finally……..

    Polly put the kettle on…. We’ll All have some tea…..

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