I come from a family that drinks tea together. It is a normal custom to stay awake and chat all night. The younger ones like us are made to get up every now to make tea for everyone else! Listening to kisse & kahaniya (short stories) of the past seven generations, we have been hearing the same jumble (phrases) on Tea from our grandparents, parents, uncles, and elder cousins now. “Chai pee Jaye?”, it always starts like this at 10 pm after dinner, and we end up completing four to five rounds of kadak chai, cardamom tea, ginger tea, or just tea till three or four in the morning with innumerable rounds of Ludo and Snakes & Ladders. Be it a moment of waiting for a train, or waiting for food to be served, or at just a game of cards – A cup of tea has always been our common thread to pass time.
Role of Tea in our family
I think, by now, I have already made you all believe that Tea has been the dearest drink in our family. And for us, it is not just about how well it is made, but also how well it is served. My grandfather used to say, “Chai Ek tehzeeb hai” which in English means that Tea defines Culture. How you present a cup of tea defines your etiquette, your conduct, your personality. I am sure you must be thinking that I have gone way too ahead with this now, but the story I am about to tell you will make you believe that my folks take Tea way too seriously!
We have a lot of stories entangled around a cup of tea in our family. One of my favorite stories is the story of how I got my mom to be my mom because of our beloved beverage – Tea. So it was late 1985, my father was an eligible bachelor, and all his elder brothers were already married. As you may know, hierarchy is usually a reason to get married in Indian families. Hence, it was time to find a suitable bride for him. So the search began. My grandmother and my father’s eldest brother were usually the two people who would go to search for a desirable match. At that time it was not very important for the groom (or the bride) to really have a say in such matters. He or she would rather be told that you are getting married to this person than be asked about it.
Cup of tea with family
So anyway, without getting on the wrong track, I will come back to my story. Obviously, there is very little one can see in a family (or the girl) in just a meeting. My grandmother was never so fond of how well the samosas were made or how the round was the laddus served. She always had her eye on the Chai (Tea). Of all the families they saw, they saw one family, which served tea in a porcelain kettle, with a matching sugar jar and a milk pot. A perfect set of cups and saucers and a silver spoon to stir. And the cherry on the cake was the tea cozy (or tea warmer) to cover up the teapot. All of which were kept in an organized fashion on a silver tray. Ah! You have no idea how much did that tray charm, my grandmother!
Not very famous among the masses, this style of making tea is called “Dum ki Chai” because the tea is made to be absorbed completely in its raw form in boiling water, this process is done independently with only the help of a tea cozy supporting it.
The eccentricity with which they were welcomed with a cup of tea became the reason for them to choose my mother to be the would-be bride for my father! The exact words that my grandmother said while finalizing the matrimony were, and I quote, “Unke Ghar mein dum wali chai banti hai, shaadi yahin hogi”.
Tea and Tea Culter in India
“Would you like an adventure now, or shall we have tea first?”, quoted from Alice in the Wonderland.
I think this is how my parents would have embarked on their journey of living together happily ever after. It is fascinating to see how with just a cup of tea, their families united forever. It is true that tea brings harmony and affiliation for each other. It has been years and still counting, and this is how tea is served in our family. Keeping this story alive, my mother makes sure that my father is served the morning tea just they his family likes. Every time I hear this story it gives me the chills of amazement. I am sure with tea or without tea, she was the perfect match, but this story defines most accurately how tea is a culture in India more than just a drink.
Tea is an exciting drink ever
Why tea for me is the most exciting drink is because of the various shades it ships into our hearts. We have seen tea in the shape of a matchmaker, a conversation starter, a drink for sleepless nights, a cup to cuddle along. It is the casual beverage for all your cricket matches, for the long exam nights, for the nukkad ki chai, for the station ka kulhar (terracotta cup) and it is also the elucidating beverage that defines your culture and demonstrates your etiquettes. But the common thread between both of these versions of tea is that it brings together people. Within one cup lies friendship, love, anger, romance, and endless conversations. Well in my mother’s cup of tea, lied her destiny. That is how strongly tea is rooted in our Indian Culture.
There is a story poured in every cup, told with every sip, and remembered evermore. Weaved within my heart and soul, this is the tea I know.
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