Why Chai?

The Warm, Welcoming, Delicious Tradition of the Subcontinent


If you were to visit my parents’ house, the first thing they’d offer you is a cup of cha (chai in Punjabi). They’d ask you to come in and have a seat, and then they’d rush into the kitchen to begin preparing the drink: boiling black tea with a mix of spices like cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and fennel seeds, and then adding some sugar and milk.

Generally speaking, you could expect this sort of welcome replicated in any home across the Indian subcontinent and the South Asian diaspora. In India it’s believed that guests are akin to God and should be welcomed properly, whether they’ve been invited or not. And a proper welcome can’t be had without serving chai!

The entire region is literally steeped in the tradition of a warm welcome with chai. Tea stalls run by chai wallahs (people who make or sell tea) are ubiquitous in India. They dot roadside stops throughout the country. If you’re on a train or bus, a chai wallah will bring you a cup of tea. If you’re out shopping or getting your hair done at a salon, it’s not uncommon for the manager to send for a chai wallah to bring some tea as you wait.

So it should come as no surprise that India is not only the second largest producer of tea in the world (second only to China): it also consumes 70% of the 900,000 tons it produces each year!

The rest of the world, it seems, is catching on. Tea is now the second most widely consumed beverage across the globe, just after water. On any given day, over 159 million Americans can be found drinking tea.

More than just tea

But we chai-lovers know that chai isn’t just a drink. Oh no. Chai is an emotion. It’s an experience!

Need a pick-me-up? Have some chai.

Need to relax? Have some chai.

Want to settle down with a good book? Have some chai.

Gossip session with the girls? Have some chai.

I remember coming inside on a cold day as a child, and the house would smell like a hug. The cardamom and cloves my mom added to the chai would warm their way into my heart before I’d even taken a sip.

The health benefits of chai

If I ever came down with a cold or flu, my mom would add some ginger and a bit of ghee to my brew. I swear those cups of chai would soothe my body and soul.

My mom was following a long tradition. Whether it’s adding ginger to help with digestion, or a pinch of carom seeds to alleviate cramps, chai has long been used for medicinal purposes.

A number of studies have linked chai consumption and heart health. In 2008 researchers found that those who drank three to six cups of tea per day reduced their risk of heart disease by 45%. Other recent studies have shown that regular tea drinkers may have a lower risk of developing dementia. There is also plenty of evidence supporting the healthy benefits of basic chai ingredients like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and cardamom.

So, why chai?

We say: why not chai!


Are you a chai-lover? Get in touch to find out more about chai time at our Priya Living communities!