What is a Chaiwallah or Chaiwalli?
“Garam Chai! Garam Chai!”
If you’ve ever stepped onto the streets of India, you’ve heard this ubiquitous chant from the local Chaiwallah, serving up fresh, hot chai that he’s been brewing all day at his street kiosk. “Chai” is “spiced black tea with milk” and “Wallah” means “seller or maker”, so a Chaiwallah is just that, a maker and seller of masala Chai. And a Chaiwalli is a female chai maker/seller. “Garam” means “hot” which is how chai is enjoyed all day in India, whether it’s the rainy monsoon season or a chilly evening in the deserts of Rajasthan. Chai is universally appreciated in the complex and diverse communities and cultures that make up India. From the northern regions of the country to the foothills of the lush southern states, each chaiwallah and chaiwalli has her unique, family recipe passed down generations. In the north you may enjoy the sweet fragrance of fennel in your chai, in the west, be prepared for the fresh zing of ginger; while in the south, chai may simply be made with a few pods of cardamom, or possibly no spices at all. Regardless of the unique preparation of chai, a chaiwallah and chaiwalli all serve an essential role in the culture of their communities. They are the meeting place; the stop on your way to work; the pick me up in the middle of the day; or a soothing cup on you way home. Friends gather around the chai cart to catch up on the day’s gossip. The chaiwallah, like the barber, provides a platform to vent, a podium to share the latest news and neighborhood happenings, or just a quiet place to convene. If you’ve travelled to Italy, you’ve seen the tiny espresso shops; chaiwallahs are the proud baristas of India. Chaiwallahs and chaiwalli’s are found at train stations, at temples, and busy corners around town. They have carts and kiosks and normally operate without any helpers. It’s usually just them and their large pot, open fire, strainer and a stack of plastic cups, stainless steel, glassware or earthenware clay cups called Kulhads. Kulhads are made of clay, have no handles, and are smashed after using them. They emit an earthy flavor to the chai, and for many chai connoisseurs, it is the only way to enjoy a cup of chai!
At CHAI.COM, we want you to embrace the culture around chaiwallahs by creating opportunities for you to simply brew a fresh pot of garam chai for loved ones who come knocking at your door. We’ve simplified the process for brewing a cup or a large pot of chai. We’ve taken out the guesswork for how to make a cup for 1 or 100! All you need is hot water, hot milk, our delicious and satisfying masala chai mixes and an open-heart! And you’ve got the recipe for bringing people around your kitchen table and sharing meaningful moments together. Embrace your quiet moments alone with a cup of chai or embrace quality time spent with others. That is the joy of making and serving a cup of chai; That is the chaiwalli way!