The neighbourhood chai wallah will never go out of fashion

Chai dhaba style (PhotoL Htv)

By Kishori Sud

New Delhi–The good old “tapri wali chai” — tea from a roadside seller — is not going out of fashion any time soon, even if fancy tea variants continue to flood the cafes, chai bars and vending machines.

Be it those quick breaks in between office hours or a unifying agent for college students, tapri chai — traditionally made with milk and sugar — has had a different charm.

Tea experts and owners of different cafes and tea brands maintain that tapri chai might be reinvented with style, but the flavour that it gets in its original setting will never go out fashion.

“Tea as a subject is gaining a lot of interest amongst the evolving consumers. Tapri chai continues to be the mainstay and preferred morning cup of tea. It will continue to be so for a long time considering the depth and volume of our population,” Subrata Mukherji, Business Head at Typhoo India, told IANS.

However, Mukherji said the younger and new-age consumers are also exploring new tastes, healthy brews and are looking for exotic varieties.

Raghav Verma, co-founder, Chaayos, believes the tea industry is witnessing a lot of innovation.

Chai dhaba style (PhotoL Htv)

Citing hygiene as one of the bankable factors, Verma said: “Before chai cafes came into the picture, tapri chai was the only option. There were so many chai lovers who never had an option beyond home. But now with cafes, they can enjoy their cup of tea at a good cafe and be sure about hygiene.”

On the contrary, Rishav Kanoi, tea expert and founder at Tea Trove, believes that now people are more aware and conscious about their well-being, and have “realised the harmful effects of the milk-based tapri chai and the health benefits/positive effects of liquor teas – be it pure or flavoured”.

“When whole-leaf teas are blended with real, natural ingredients that add to the flavour, the whole experience gets elevated to a whole new level as you not only get the health benefit of the tea but also of the ingredients that have been added to the tea,” he added.

It is often said that good quality tea is exported out of the country.

However, in Mukherji’s opinion, the Indian tea market is approximately 1,275 million kg, of which only 200 million kg is exported. The balance is consumed domestically, and that is a huge share of the volume.

“Tea’s main consumption in India is with milk and sugar, more like the tapri chai. With the addition of a large portion of milk and sugar, the real taste of tea gets compromised or stays hidden.

“So, the best varieties are still enjoyed by the connoisseurs and mostly overseas.

“Some of the best teas are also exported directly as the prices they are sold at there are far more remunerative. Given the growth of specialty and loose-leaf teas, quality teas are being consumed locally as well now,” he added.

Kanoi said 90 per cent of good quality tea is exported and what remains is what is sold in the domestic market for consumption. But as consumers have got evolved over the years, the market dynamics have undergone change.

“With players like us who are willing to buy and sell good quality tea, now a lot of the export grade teas are being sold in the domestic market as well,” Kanoi said.

The general belief in the tea market is that the tea inside tea-bags is inferior and of a very low cut and grade. So the experts said the best way to drink tea is to steep it in hot water.

“Tea bags, though more convenient to use, are a compromise on the taste of Indian palate,” said Verma


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