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tea in India
April 19, 2010 8:42 PM   Subscribe

Chai Why? The Triumph of Tea in India : "But whereas I initially supposed tea-drinking to be as Indian, and perhaps as old, as the Vedas, I have come to know that it is, in the longue durée of Indian history, a very recent development; one that (in many parts of the country) did not much precede my first visit, or that even followed it."
posted by dhruva (18 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
[via]
posted by dhruva at 8:42 PM on April 19, 2010


Related NPR story: The Tea Thieves: How A Drink Shaped An Empire
posted by Burhanistan at 9:28 PM on April 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I love a bit of a look at the longue durée; tea featured in one the best considerations of that on a global scale that I've read in recent years in the context of 'packages' of new consumer goods that became part of daily diets in that sort of contested process tied with vested interests described in the article and the one Burhanistan links; it is a surprise how recently that played out in India.
posted by Abiezer at 10:31 PM on April 19, 2010


I'm sure the story is very interesting but I can't read it now because it's bed time. But I did try to look at it at least 3 times and only now did I realize that there are all these other pages with all this text. I had no idea..I thought it was a little blurb on "here's the book I've got in the works". I just have to pipe up for thoughtful interface design. If you have lots of content don't make it so hard to find.
posted by amethysts at 11:09 PM on April 19, 2010


The Politics of Tea.
posted by adamvasco at 12:30 AM on April 20, 2010


whoops.
posted by adamvasco at 12:37 AM on April 20, 2010


I assume that the triumph of chai in India has a lot to do with the fact that it's the poor man's Coke.

At a fraction of the cost of a premium cola brand*, you get a caffeine hit with at least three teaspoons of sugar; often more - a perfect pick-me-up, especially for those at the more labour-intensive ends of Indian society.

* from memory, when a 250mL bottle of Thums Up cost about Rs10, a chai would go for about Rs2.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:18 AM on April 20, 2010


or even cheaper, with the 'by-two' chai (also known as the cutting chai) where you buy one cup for two people, so you get two cups with slightly more than half the amount of chai.
posted by dhruva at 4:45 AM on April 20, 2010


two by three at the Saravana canteen outside the engineering college for poverty stricken undergrads :)
posted by infini at 4:57 AM on April 20, 2010


oh, dear. i'd completely forgotten that.

chaiwallah: "you are not supposed to be ordering eight half-chais for yourself!"

me: "why not? two half chais you get more than one full chai for same price! two more half-chais, please!"

the shame.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:02 AM on April 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I assume that the triumph of chai in India has a lot to do with the fact that it's the poor man's Coke.


Also, the boiling water means you can actually drink water that doesn't kill you rather then drinking wine or beer or milk for breakfast.
posted by The Whelk at 6:37 AM on April 20, 2010


yes, and drinking it out of a terracotta biodegradable "kullad" on the train to calcutta (where its more prevalent) brings out its own damp clay smell/flavour (better than that sounds) - you can see them on the table on the right of the main counter.

pity they're replacing it all with paper cups that litter the tracks adn stations
posted by infini at 7:14 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The book that goes into great detail about chai in India and the mechanics of it becoming accepted is Curry by Collingham. That book is a great read for those interested in food history and interactions between the subcontinent and the British empire. Important things like why Japanese curry is a hark back to 19th century British interpreted curry and the history of tikka masala is very much worth a read.
posted by jadepearl at 7:53 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Recently, the Guardian had an interesting video on coffee shops in Kerala.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:22 AM on April 20, 2010


At a fraction of the cost of a premium cola brand*, you get a caffeine hit with at least three teaspoons of sugar; often more - a perfect pick-me-up, especially for those at the more labour-intensive ends of Indian society.

Tea also tastes an infinite number of times bettter than Thumbs Up.
posted by goethean at 9:26 AM on April 20, 2010


This is interesting. I, like the author, thought tea was a well-established drink in India before the colonisation. Especially interesting since it's the first drink the waiter at my local Indian restaurant offers when I sit down.
posted by Partario at 9:27 AM on April 20, 2010


Fascinating—mark me down as another who had no idea it was such a recent development.
posted by languagehat at 11:35 AM on April 20, 2010


The book that goes into great detail about chai in India and the mechanics of it becoming accepted is Curry by Collingham.
I highly recommend this book as well.
posted by dhruva at 11:43 AM on April 20, 2010


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