Chai's history and culture

Drinking tea, in all different cultures, is a social event. It's meant to be consumed sitting down, and some eastern cultures have created elaborate ceremonies to signify its importance in their culture.

In India, the consumption of tea for medicinal and therapeutic purposes was documented as far back as 500 BC. However, it was the British who introduced the Indians to the culture of drinking black tea with milk and sugar. Indians adopted the recipe, boiled the tea with spices and milk to make chai in its current form.

The British East India Company started the commercial production of tea in India in the 19th century. The foothills of Himalayas in the northeast region proved to be the ideal climate for tea plantations. As a result, India has become one of the largest tea producers in the world.

Those who traveled to India are familiar with carts on sidewalks and street corners selling chai and other goodies. Like the Chinese, Indians drink chai multiple times a day. Like in Britain, the afternoon chai is often accompanied with snacks. As it is with eastern culture, chai is a sign of hospitality. If you prefer to have your chai the “British way” – black tea with a spot of milk - you are likely to be considered an elitist in India.