I am in favour of tea being the national drink of India. This despite growing up in south India with filter coffee every morning and then growing into starting my day with a couple of cups of black coffee. But even in a home where coffee administers the wakeup call each morn, tea is the preferred beverage for a pick me up during the day or even the goodnight drink when desired.
Coffee may be the soul of south India but tea is the essence of India. A cup of chai is definitely something that you can count on no matter where or when you arrive at anyone’s doorstep in India.
Chai also has a very special place in every Hyderabadi’s heart. The Irani cafes in the city have been serving the wondrous brew for decades. These cafes are slowly being sidelined by the Café Coffee Days and Baristas but I am confident that they will not go the way of single screen theatres.
Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s announcement about making tea India’s national drink has health Nazis quickly jumping up and demonizing the ill effects of caffeine and gunning for coconut water, nimbu paani or lassi as the beverage of a billion and Amul who’s bread and butter is milk wants milk to be the potion of the nation. What does making tea the national drink have anything to do with some people’s over indulging in it? A national drink reflects what the nation drinks most. Here we have a case of drinking the most tea in the world. Case closed.
Research tells us every few months that drinking tea is good or drinking coffee is good. Then a few months later it tells us tea is bad or coffee is bad. Moderation I suspect is the key in everything including in moderation as has been said by the wise ones.
Interestingly, Starbucks is making a ton of money in the US selling its “chai tea” concoction. While it has no connection to the drink that is universally loved in India, it does reflect the growing popularity of chai in a country where coffee has been the preferred poison.
A cup of chai can do what coffee never can. Forget about all the other options. Conversations are cosy over chai. Coffee is clinical. Tea is mystical. Coffee is calculating. Tea is tender. And so tea has also been the beverage of choice when breaking bad news. Being Indian and growing up on a steady diet of British mysteries, I know what to offer someone when their life falls apart. It sure ain’t coffee. Just ask Miss Marple. It is tea! After all who would question Miss Marple’s methods. She is always right. As far as I’m concerned, tea trumps everything. The tea industry has been lobbying to be the nation’s drink for years. Former and maybe soon current again President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam, has already called it our national drink last year. So what’s all the fuss about?