Different Types of Chai Across India: A Delicious Journey Through the Country

Different Types of Chai Across India: A Delicious Journey Through the Country

In India, chai is more than just a beverage; it's an integral part of life, a warm hug in a cup that brings people together. From the bustling streets of Mumbai to the serene hill stations of Darjeeling, every region boasts its unique chai culture, reflecting local flavours, traditions, and preferences. Today, we embark on a delicious journey across India, exploring some of the most popular and intriguing chai varieties:

Kulhad Chai with cinnamon, cardamom, and herbs (milk tea)

Kahwa (Kashmir): Kahwa is a fragrant green tea concoction infused with a unique blend of spices like saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and sometimes even rose petals. This aromatic tea is not just delicious but also believed to have medicinal properties, aiding digestion and boosting immunity.

Spiced Masala Chai (Pan-India): While variations exist across regions, this classic Masala Chai has a universal presence throughout India. Black tea leaves are brewed with milk and a warm blend of spices like cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. This comforting and flavorful chai is a perfect companion for any time of day.

Gur Gur Chai (Ladakh): Hailing from the unforgiving terrains of Ladakh, Gur Gur Chai (literally meaning "gurgling tea") is a powerhouse beverage designed to combat the harsh mountain climate. This robust concoction is made by churning strong tea leaves with yak butter and salt, resulting in a thick, creamy tea that provides warmth and sustained energy.

Butter Tea (Himachal Pradesh): Similar to Gur Gur Chai, this hearty beverage from Himachal Pradesh uses butter but often clarifies it for a milder taste. Black tea leaves are simmered with milk and clarified butter, creating a creamy and comforting tea perfect for the chilly mountain climate.

Kesar Chai (Pan-India): Indulge in a touch of luxury with Kesar Chai, a decadent tea experience across India. This aromatic beverage features saffron, the "king of spices," lending its rich colour and flavour to the mix. Saffron strands are steeped in hot milk along with tea leaves, creating a golden-hued tea that's as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate.

Shillong Masala Chai (Meghalaya): From the rolling hills of Meghalaya comes Shillong Masala Chai, a unique blend of black tea leaves infused with a special mix of local spices like black pepper, bay leaf, and clove. This aromatic tea offers a distinct flavour profile that is both warming and invigorating.

Noon Chai (Kashmir): Kashmir's famed Noon Chai, also known as Pink Tea, is a visual and gustatory treat. This delicate beverage is made with special green tea leaves, milk, a pinch of baking soda, and gets its characteristic pink hue from a specific type of Kashmiri salt. The subtle flavours and unique colours make Noon Chai a delightful choice for festive occasions and social gatherings.

Noon Chai in a ceramic cup with rose petals and spices in containers

Ukado (Gujarat): Ukado, a traditional Gujarati herbal tea, is a fragrant mix of spices like turmeric, ginger, cloves, and black pepper. Revered for its immune-boosting properties, Ukado is a popular choice during cold and flu season, offering a comforting and potentially therapeutic effect.

Pahadi Chai (Uttarakhand): Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, Uttarakhand offers Pahadi Chai, a strong and milky tea brewed with local herbs like rhododendron and lemongrass. This unique blend provides a refreshing and invigorating experience, perfect for a break after a trek in the mountains.

Amruttulya Chai (Maharashtra): In the vibrant city of Pune, Amruttulya Chai reigns supreme. This strong, milky tea is brewed to perfection and served in small glass cups. Often enjoyed alongside traditional Maharashtrian snacks like vada pav or bhajiya, Amruttulya Chai is a quintessential part of the Pune experience.

Lebu Cha (Kolkata): Beat the Kolkata heat with a cup of Lebu Cha, a delightful twist on the classic chai. This zesty beverage features freshly squeezed lemon juice added to black tea, resulting in a refreshing and rejuvenating drink that perfectly complements the scorching summer days.

Lebu chai (black tea) in a glass cup with lemon in it and some spices on the table

Parsi Tea: If you find yourself in a Parsi household, be prepared for a delightful amalgamation of Indian and Iranian influences in a cup of Parsi Tea. This sweet and milky tea is infused with cardamom for a touch of warmth and is often served with buttery biscuits or rusks, reflecting the Parsi community's rich cultural heritage.

Nathdwara Chai (Rajasthan): Nestled in the temple town of Nathdwara in Rajasthan, Nathdwara Chai is a fragrant concoction perfect for a spiritual pause. This unique combination of black tea, milk, and aromatic spices like cloves and cinnamon is a popular beverage among devotees visiting the famed Shrinathji Temple.

Irani Chai (Mumbai): Mumbai's Irani cafes are famous for their strong, milky Irani Chai. This robust mix is typically brewed with strong CTC (Crush, Tear, Curl) black tea leaves, resulting in a deep colour and a bold flavour profile. It's often served with a side of Osmania biscuits for a delightful snack.

Marwari Chai (Rajasthan): Marwari Chai from Rajasthan is known for its unique preparation. Black tea leaves are simmered in milk with a generous amount of cashew nuts and cardamom, resulting in a rich, creamy, and slightly nutty tea that is a delightful treat.

Ronga Saah (Assam): Assam, the heartland of Indian tea, offers a unique variety called Ronga Saah. This vibrant red tea gets its colour from a special type of wild ginger brewed with black tea leaves. The resulting concoction boasts a strong flavour profile with a distinct spicy kick that invigorates the senses.

Kashaya (Mangalore): Kashaya, from Mangalore, is more than just a tea; it's a traditional Ayurvedic kadha or herbal concoction. This milk-based tea incorporates a symphony of spices readily available in most Indian kitchens - cumin, peppercorns, coriander seeds, dry ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, liquorice root (mulethi), and jaggery. Renowned for its immune-boosting properties, Kashaya is a comforting drink to ward off winter chills.

Sulaimani Chai (Kerala): Travel down south to Kerala, and you'll encounter Sulaimani Chai, a refreshing black tea infused with the warmth of spices like ginger, cardamom, and cloves. This tangy concoction is a popular digestive aid, often served after meals to cleanse the palate and stimulate digestion.

Conclusion:

In India, chai is far more than just a drink; it's a cultural phenomenon that binds people together across diverse regions and traditions. Each chai variety tells a story of local flavours and customs. The popularity of spiced Masala Chai spanning the country highlights its universal appeal, while specialities like Kesar Chai and Noon Chai add a touch of luxury and tradition to everyday life.

Exploring India through its chai varieties is like venturing on a culinary journey rich in history, taste, and community. Whether you're sipping Parsi Tea in a cosy Mumbai cafe or enjoying Pahadi Chai after a trek in Uttarakhand, chai connects people and places, offering a warm embrace in every cup. Across India, chai isn't just a beverage‚ÄĒit's an invitation to share moments, stories, and experiences, making it truly integral to the fabric of daily life.

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