The clock strikes 4.30 pm and your stomach gives out a light rumble. It’s been over two hours since you’ve had lunch, and maybe another three to four hours before you eat dinner. Then there is also the issue of your entire day’s exhaustion, which is about to hit you like a train, any second. In such daily life dilemmas, the only thing that can actually save you from the looming fatigue and slight hunger is a cup of tea and some tea time snacks.
The truth is, our lives are getting busier by the day. And tea time, which used to be an enjoyable tradition, has turned into a necessity of convenience for an individual. What used to be deliciously prepared tea in the comfort of our homes, has now evolved into short breaks during work hours, right outside the office buildings, at the local chaiwala. What your chaiwala will offer you is a milkier, sweeter version of your favorite blend, along with some form of tea time snacks. If that isn’t your jam, and health is your main concern, then a cup of green tea is the perfect fit for you, maybe paired with some healthy snacks.
Ultimately, there is not a single tea out there that cannot be enjoyed with some form of sweet or savoury tea time snacks.
6 Famous Tea Time Snacks and their Origin Stories
Some invented by accident, some evolved from other cultural dishes, every food item consumed today has had a beginning. Every tea time snack shares a diverse and colourful origin story with mentions in historical books. Here’s a list of the most famous tea time snacks that add the extra dip of satisfaction to our routine tea breaks.
- Samosa : The samosa needs no introduction. It is the go-to snack of every Indian in the sub-continent. This deep-fried, triangular savoury is best served with a form of black milk tea, generally black ginger tea or kadak masala chai. Samosas are a popular snack in the local cuisines of the Indian subcontinent, Western Asia, Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, the Horn of Africa, North Africa, and Southern Africa. However, unlike popular belief, the samosa did not originate in India. It is claimed to have originated in the Middle East (where it was known as sambosa) prior to the 10th century. It wasn’t until the 13th or 14th century when this food was introduced into India. What had started as a pie dish stuffed with mincemeat, dry fruits and spices, soon evolved into a vegetarian’s delight, prepared with flour stuffed with a mixture of mashed potatoes, onions, green peas, spices and green chilli. In today’s time, there are numerous variations of samosa all over the country known by various names. However, no matter what the name, samosas remains cult favourite tea time snacks till date and will continue to live on as one.
- Baklava : Maybe one of the controversial origin stories of all time, the Baklava is a dessert dish enjoyed in the Middle East. The origin of this scrumptious delicacy is shrouded in confusing ethnic claims and undocumented histories. The story of baklava began long ago. As a matter of fact, one version of the story claims that it originated with the Assyrians. Early 8th century records show that in ancient Assyria, people would prepare it by layering unleavened flatbread with chopped nuts in between, drenching it in honey and then baking it in wood-burning ovens. The present-day baklava has gone through numerous transformations and is prepared differently in various regions by the people of the Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean, Balkans and Caucasia. Today, as tea time snacks, baklava is enjoyed with a refreshing cup of Turkish tea or Assam black tea.
- Scones : Europe’s delight, scones are biscuit-like pastries or quick-breads, generally rolled into round shapes and cut into quarters, then baked, sometimes on a griddle. They can be savoury or sweet and are usually eaten for breakfast, but are also served with tea and coffee. Starting out as a Scottish quick bread in the early 1500s, they were originally made with oats and griddle baked, while today’s version is often made with flour and oven-baked. Considering scones are a people pleaser in Europe, they are best served with the English breakfast tea.
- Wagashi : To call them ‘sweet’ tea time snacks would be misleading, for wagashi’s are Japanese confections prepared specially to accompany the bitter taste of tea. Prepared with plant ingredients like azuki beans and grains they are served regularly during Japanese tea ceremonies. Though origins unknown, the earliest mentions of wagashi date back to the Yayoi period (300 b.c-300 a.c), when it referred to nothing more than fruits and nuts and was simply known as ‘kashi’, meaning sweet or confectionary. During the Nara Period (710-784), Japan, influenced by China’s grain processing skills, developed snacks such as ‘mochi’ and ‘dango’, both made from rice. By the Edo period, the Japanese adopted sugar as a common ingredient and soon started making wagashi, a confection reserved for delicious and artistic tea ceremonies. Today, wagashi is best served with matcha, pure green tea and oolong tea.
- Crepes : France’s delectable staple, crepes seem like an odd pairing with tea, but in reality, the sweet yet salty flavour of crepes compliment the bitter and floral tea blends of almost all types. This international sensation in the form of tea time snacks originated from the humble region of Bretagne, in western France. Since not much grew in the rocky terrain of Bretagne, the arrival of buckwheat in the 12th century inspired all sorts of dishes, one of which was the crepe. Not just a delicacy, but a dish that holds cultural significance in France’s history, today crepes are served both sweet and savoury. From mushrooms and cream to Nutella and icing sugar fillings, crepes are every foodie’s delight. However, unlike popular belief, crepes can be best enjoyed with a light beverage like mint green tea, or vanilla green tea.
- Vada Pav : The famous Vada pav is a gram flour coated, deep-fried, spiced mashed potato ball; sandwiched between slices of Mumbaiya style pav bread and some spicy red chutney masala. As known as the common man’s burger, vada pav is available at every street corner of Mumbai, India. Various food history documentations claim that this dish was created by a snack vendor who ran a street stall just outside Dadar station. Being an important station, Dadar was constantly spilling with hordes of commuters. In a moment of culinary innovation, the vendor reportedly came up with this recipe to satiate the hunger of the busy crowd, who preferred a snack they could consume on the go. Safe to say, the rest is history. Not only are vada pavs extremely delicious and light on the pocket, but they also pair well with the local’s favourite beverage, Bombay cutting chai. The life of ‘aamchi Mumbai’, vada pavs manage to keep everyone happy as their favourite tea time snacks, always.
The Importance of Tea Time Snacks
One of the most important parts of being human is parenting a sense of sanity in the form of a daily rhythm. You tend to establish that by trying to balance various aspects of your life into a regular day like work, relationships, social life, solidarity, etc. In between all these, are the tiny breaks called tea breaks that you take to retrospect, or maybe think of nothing at all, all the while enjoying your favourite healthful beverage- tea.
Tea time offers you a chance to slow your day down, even if it’s just for a few minutes. You can utilise this time to reconnect with friends and family. You can make use of this opportunity to strike a conversation with them or even get to know new people whom you’re willing to welcome in your life. Or, just use this time to relax and be away from the hustle bustle of your life.
The ultimate point is that it is these little things, like tea and tea time snacks, which help you live a much gracious and gratitude filled life. Just remember, that it is those little things that make big differences.
A seeker of everyday magic; I write to be authentic, not unique.