When you in india - have some chai. If you in India in winter, and up north, have lots of chai.  Masala chai - strangely addictive, though can be overly sweet. Half sugar option was more palatable and flavourful.

Most train stations tend to offeronly instant chai - or one from a flask. Quite often, just outside of the station you might find the real deal though. And since the train is probably late - why not take a walk...


Sweet, milky,  spicy.  In some places it comes with pepper, in others with ginger. In others, you might detect a hint of saffron or other fragrant spices: clove, fennel, nutmeg. These small variations make tasting and trying good fun. And it keeps you warm and full of sugar during a cold day.

There is also some variation in what you get to sip your chai from. In Agra and Dheli most of our chai came in disposable, paper cups. Boring. And environmentally crappy.

Up in a shepherd hut on a Himalayan trail, expect your chai to arrive in one of these cute stainless steel cups. Before becoming a hand warmer, you might get slightly smoked: most of the little shacks have no chimney and your chai is cooked on live fire. Smoke makes it into the tea and you often can taste a little smokiness when sipping the chai (no, it was not the smoke we were just breathing - to scientifically test, we filed our flask up and tasted it in the crisp, cold air during a hike). 

In eateries by the road, and in most of street stalls in Rajasthan, a little, thick glass cup is the choice.

In other places, it is served in kulhar (aka shikora) - a small, disposable clay pot. Yeap.T oss it off once you had your masala chai. Or, if you a tourist, you probably will stick it into your pocket as a souvenir. On the third or forth, you will toss it though.

Unglazed, kulhar reacts with the hot tea, your lips and tongue, releasing earthy flavourswith each sip.

Then comes the tandoori chai: the tip of the chai journey it seems. Just before being served, masala chai has a short, but intense, randevouz with an extremely hot kuhlar taken straight from a tandoori oven. Fire meats earth meats water (with some sugar and spices) and turns into air (sort of). Four elements in one earthy, disposable red cup.

It's a spectacle when the hot chai meets much hotter kuhlar. Sugar and milk foam and burn, a dance of steam and foam releases notes of caramel and intensifies the already flavourous chai.

It's a feast for eyes - followed by a feast for mouth.Enjoy while hot!

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