Tea Cultures of the world- India
14 Jul

“Take life one chai at a time”

The monsoons have arrived and it’s that time of the year when Indians are drawn to their favorite rainy indulgence….There’s nothing more pleasurable than sipping a cup of homemade masala chai, tucking into pakoras and reading a book while listening to the pitter patter of the raindrops These images define the monsoon memories in India. So this week we are going to learn more about India’s most loved beverage- Chai.


1.What is Chai?

‘Chai’ is undoubtedly one of the most popular drinks in India. It is typically served in attractive clay cups in road side stalls and is an essential part of Indian culture. In India, Chai refers to tea and all kinds of tea.


What is internationally known as chai – the milky brew that’s loaded with spices and that brings warmth to a rainy day- is actually known as Masala Chai in India. Once masala chai made its way to the west, it dropped its first name and is known all over the world as chai.


What is internationally known as chai – the milky brew that’s loaded with spices and that brings warmth to a rainy day- is actually known as Masala Chai in India. Once masala chai made its way to the west, it dropped its first name and is known all over the world as chai.

Masala Chai

2.Balance of Spices

Chai is all about balancing the spices, add to much or too little of any spice and your chai tastes totally different.


Let’s have a closer look at the principal spices that make up a chai:

  • Green cardamom- for aroma and fragrance
  • Cinnamon stick – add sweetness and warmth to the brew
  • Fennel seed – Offers a gentle anise or licorice note
  • Fresh ginger – Flavors the whole pot of tea with a fresher spice note
  • Black peppercorns – Gives the chai a spicy bite, which I love.
  • Whole cloves – make the brew musky and strong
  • Star anise – A darker, sweeter licorice flavor than the greener fennel seed
  • Saffron- for color, warmth and richness
Indian Masala Chai

3.Cutting Chai

Popular to Mumbai is “Cutting Chai” – a tea trend that has spread across India. Cutting chai isn’t so much about a different recipe of chai as it is about serving chai in glass cups as opposed to the traditional way of serving chai in a matka. Traditionally, chai was served in a matka (earthen cup) which has been replaced by glass cups. These cups were placed one over the other and the chai was split in these 2 cups and were enjoyed by two people. It is said that the act of sharing the chai gave its name as Cutting Chai. Local tea stall owners in Mumbai saw this as opportunity and started to serve half cup of Chai in a reduced price.

Chai in Matki

4.Irani Chai

Irani Chai is a culinary specialty of Hyderabad, India. This was first introduced by Persians & soon evolved in the city of Hyderabad. The historical surroundings of Charminar area in Hyderabad are filled with traditional Irani tea houses that serve up this great tasting chai.


Like cutting chai, the Irani chai isn’t much different in taste as the masala chai. The only difference we have noted is the absence of ginger and that the Irani chai is milkier than its masala chai counterpart.


Irani chai is typically served in a small white teacup and saucer with Osmania biscuits on the side and part of its charm is when the tea is poured to the brim adding to its messiness- tea marks dripping over the saucer’s rim( as seen in the picture above).

Irani Chai

 5 .Teh Tarik

Teh Tarik originates from Malaysia and is famous all over the world. It was thought to have been brought to Malaysia by the first generation of Indian muslim immigrants who tweaked the original chai recipe to replace the milk with condensed or evaporated milk.


Teh tarik literally means “pulled tea,” which is exactly what tea attendants in Malaysian kopitiam stalls do to create the drink. Black tea, sugar, and condensed milk are combined, then poured through the air between two cups until it reaches a rich, frothy texture – skilled teh tarik artists never spill a drop! The tea-pulling is more than just a display of showmanship and tradition: pouring teh tarik through the air cools the tea and produces a foamy head. Successive pours bring out the full flavor of the tea in milk by combining the mixture to extreme saturation. Teh tarik is typically served in a clear glass so that the perfect mixture can be seen and appreciate.

Irani Chai

6.The perfect accompaniment to Chai- why Pakoras off course!


You can’t think of having chai without pakoras. They get along like tea & cakes! Pakoras are a classic Indian finger food comprising of fried fritters. You can make pakoras out of anything- onions, potatoes, large chillies, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and even betel leaf!


Traditionally pakoras were made using gram flour or besan, these days people even use rice flour to make it even more crispy.Pakroa



 Prep Time 5 minutes

 Cook Time 25 minutes

 Total Time 30 minutes

 Servings:  4


Ingredients (1 cup = 250 ml)

  • 2medium to large sized onions
  • 1cup gram flour or besan
  • 1 to 2teaspoon green chilies OR 1/2 red chilli powder/lal mirch powder
  • 1tablespoon chopped coriander leaves – optional
  • ½teaspoon garam masala powder – optional
  • ¼teaspoon turmeric powder (haldi) – optional
  • 1teaspoon ajwain OR carom seeds
  • 1generous pinch of asafoetida (hing) – optional
  • oilfor shallow frying or deep frying, sunflower oil or any neutral flavored oil
  • wateras required to make a medium thick batter
  • saltas required

Making onion pakora batter:


  1. slice the onions thinly and take them in a mixing bowl. also add chopped green chilies.
  2. if you do not have green chilies, then add red chili powder. you can also add chopped coriander leaves, if you want.
  3. add the spices – carom seeds, turmeric powder, asafoetida and salt.
  4. mix everything well. cover and keep the onion, chilies and spice mixture aside for 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. the onions would release water and then you can add water as required in the batter.
  6. add gram flour (besan).
  7. add required amount of water to make medium thick batter.
  8. stir the whole mixture very well with a spoon or with your hands. the onion pakora batter is ready to be fried.

Making onion pakora:

  1. in hot oil, add spoonfuls of the batter.
  2. depending on the size of the kadai or pan, you can add less or more. just make sure you don’t over crowd the pakoras while frying.
  3. when the pakoras are a bit cooked, turn over with a slotted spoon and continue to fry.
  4. you will have turn the pakoras few times for even frying.
  5. fry the onion pakoras, till they look crisp and golden.
  6. remove them with a slotted spoon. drain onion pakoras on kitchen paper towels for excess oil to be absorbed.
  7. in the same oil fry slit green chilies.
  8. sprinkle some salt on the green chilies and mix well.
  9. serve onion pakoras or kandi bhaji with the fried green chilies or coriander chutney or tomato sauce


Karma Kettle Tea


Today, Chai and India are synonymous. It is found in every home, every dwelling – from small huts to tall multi storied buildings. Chai is a way of life. Guests, friends or business acquaintances alike, regardless of the relationship, sit down and drink chai together while talking.
We don’t know about you, but that’s got us running to brew some of our own in house- chai blend! Too lazy to make your own blend- buy our best selling Benares Masala chai tea online now.
Have any fun stories about Chai and your favorite recipe? Do let us know and we’d love to share them with everyone else to enjoy too.
Till then, do feel free to browse our online store for a plethora of teas handcrafted here in India. We’ve picked only the very best for all your steeping needs!
Yours, one cup at at time,
The Karma Kettle Team.