Spilling the tea on the history of chai.

 By Rahma Rifkhan

As the hot water seeps in through the tea leaves, the aroma of rich spices fills the air. A perfect harmony of flavours rings in every single sip. The fiery boldness of the ginger is complemented by the persistent sweetness of the cardamom, enhanced by the edge of the peppercorns and completed by the cinnamon’s earthiness. Along with the fragrant spices and frothy milk brews the tale of Chai: A bitter-sweet story of how this exotic beverage was discovered.

Indian masala chai tea. Spiced tea with milk on the rustic wooden table. Horizontal permission. Selective focus. Copy space.

This steaming cup of Chai, which is now the subject of countless Instagram stories has a dark past steeped in tales of British Colonialism and Indian Rebellion.  Chinese tea was all the fire among the Brits in the 1650s. Wanting to overthrow the Chinese-dominated tea trade, The British started looking elsewhere to grow tea. This is when they stumbled upon the lush lands of Assam, a northeastern state in India, where tea bushes grew wild. In the late 1830s, the first tea plantations were established and the British got wealthier while the locals laboured on.  Under harsh working conditions, constant abuse and inhuman treatment; India’s tea Industry was born.

In the early 1900s, the British started a major marketing campaign to promote the tea-drinking culture within India. They introduced tea breaks, gave away free cups at gatherings and set up stalls nation-wide. However, there was a problem: black tea was expensive. In an attempt to lower the cost, local tea-vendors started adding spices, milk and sugar to the mix, against British recommendations. From this single act of rebellion decades ago, came forth something loved by millions today. 

As India entered the 1960s, industrialised production of black tea made Chai even more affordable and so, its popularity soared, capturing the hearts of an entire nation. This is the story of how Masala Chai began.

Tea has been an integral part of Lankan heritage and culture, dating all the way back to the era of British rule. Masala Chai, however, was enjoyed quietly in different corners of our island until recently, when it took the country by storm thanks to social media. Instagram posts and Snapchat stories of Chai complementing sunrises and sunsets; late nights and early-mornings; friend groups and family gatherings have ignited a Chai-craze among the Lankan crowd. Multiple Chai-selling spots that keep popping up all over Colombo has definitely added to this.

If all this Chai talk has you craving for a steaming cup of spicy-goodness, here are some local spots you can hit!

Chaiwala Colombo           –       No-33 Frankfort Pl, Colombo 04

Unu Unu Tea Express     –       No- 27 Jaya Rd, Colombo 04

Karak                             –       No- 377 A, Galle Rd, Colombo 03

Bombay Chaiwala         –      No- 418, R.A De Mel Mawatha, Colombo 03

The art of Chai has been passed down many  generations, seeped in culture and heritage through centuries. There is no single recipe for this unique infusion. From family to family, town to town and country to country, the recipe differs but one thing stays constant. Wherever a cup of Chai is shared, it never fails to bring people together for a few moments of shared joy in a world of uncertainty.

So, here’s to Chai: The drink that connects crowds across continents.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp

Highlights.

Latest.

KAMU.

The Fusion Kottu at Eastern Wok

By Hiruni Herath Hot Butter Kottu - that’s not something you hear everyday but at

Highlights Kamu

More than Coffee – Kaffi Colombo

By Hiruni Herath Ambience and Service The Nordic Bakery and Coffee House located at Crescat

Highlights Kamu

7 Restaurants to dine in July 2022

By Shamrina Carim July hits a beautiful urge to try out different foods, events and

Highlights Kamu Yamu Guide

Hot Chook – all about that Chicken

By Hiruni Herath Service and Ambience The head chef at Hot Chook was very helpful

Highlights Kamu

A glistening night out at Colombo’s finest local bar!

By Shamrina Carim A Sri Lankan experiencing the magical inspiration of Sri Lanka in the

Kamu

Ceylon Curry Club – Sri Lankan Cuisine With a Twist

By Janani Vithanage Ceylon Curry Club, located in the Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct, is a

Kamu

Trending.

From the Garden to your Skin 

By Menaka Indrakumar  Iris Garden is a brand which started five years ago, with Fuller’s

Trending

Bullet Train – movie review

Bullet train is as the name suggest is a fast-paced action movie. Directed by David

Trending

Stay healthy & refreshed With KiCO

By Janani Vithanage Boasting over 100 years of trusted excellence, the journey of Silvermill Group

Highlights Trending

5 Reasons why you need to check out Wild Culture Yala

If you are that Wildlife lover who loves being in the wild and looking to

Highlights Trending

Waves Bologoda

SINGHE's Wave Bolgoda, which launched in January 2021, The venue was initially established by lecturer

Trending

De Artemis Gallery & Pub

A brand-new restaurant with a Gallery & Pub concept is now being built in the

Trending

Yamu Guide.

7 Instagrammable restaurants to dine in August 2022

By Hiruni Herath We’re always looking for the perfect spot that is a mix of

Highlights Yamu Guide

5 Places to get Gift Hampers – 2022

By RR Gift hampers have been around for quite a bit but they’ve suddenly become

Highlights Yamu Guide

8 FAQ’s on fuel QR Code system

Sri Lanka introduced the Fuel Pass QR code system in full force from today (1st

Highlights Yamu Guide

7 Tips to Ensure Safe Cycling

Cycling on roads full of traffic due to petrol queues can be scary. Here are

Highlights Yamu Guide

6 Cycling Accessories You Need

By Janani Vithanage With the fuel crisis still wreaking havoc in everyone’s lives, a new

Highlights Yamu Guide

5 Movies to watch this July 2022

1. Thor: Love & Thunder https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Go8nTmfrQd8 Now showing at Scope Cinemas, PVR Cinemas and Savoy

Highlights Yamu Guide