For as long as I can remember, I have watched my parents starting their day with an energizing cup of chai. However, my own journey with the brew started with nothing less than the famed tea estates of Darjeeling.
We were vacationing with friends in the breathtakingly beautiful hill station of Darjeeling in eastern India and our stay was arranged in a sprawling bungalow in the midst of an immaculately maintained tea estate belonging to a close acquaintance. One of the highlights of that stay was waking long before dawn and traversing the hilly slopes of the area in extremely chilly weather and reaching just in time to watch the marvelous sunrise view from the Tiger hills.
It was during that stay that I first witnessed the process of making tea – ladies plucking the leaves with nimble fingers, the various stages in the production process, and the mounds of tea leaves that were collected to produce the wonderful flavor the world enjoys every day.
Though it was a great vacation in many ways, the wonderful breakfasts at the bungalow really stand out in memory. At the end of a lavish spread, the tea would be brought in with great ceremony by one of the house helps – on a large tray lined with a beautiful hand embroidered, spotlessly white cloth on which the porcelain teapot would sit majestically. I would watch riveted, as the wonderfully brown brew was poured into each cup.
Only around eight years ago then, I was allowed to take a sip or two of the drink that looked deliciously tempting and was soon begging for more. Some years later after I was given permission to drink tea regularly, my bond with the amazing drink was soon sealed and became a daily habit.