Indian chai at the roadside

We Indians don’t just love tea, we adore it. Not a day goes by where we would not down few cups of tea down our throats. We just have to have it. So, if you love tea then you are going to love India too.

Indians have tea (called chai in India) differently as compared to the West where tea bags are dipped in boiled water with cold milk. In India; we boil water, milk, loose tea and sugar all at once. The milk and the tea leaves is what give the tea the flavour. The more it is boiled, the better the taste. Sometimes, we would put some crushed ginger or cardamom and other spices to give the tea some extra taste. My favourite have always been a mix of ginger and cardamom at the same time. This tea goes well with pakoras (or bhajis or aloo tikki).

A Chai-wala in Chandni Chowk, New Delhi

A Chai-wala in Chandni Chowk, New Delhi. Photo by Adib Roy.

So if you are going to India, don’t forget to try Indian chai along with the pakoras (snacks). You will find numerous dhabas or roadside tea stalls on every nook and corner in India.

Masala tea at the New Delhi Railway Station

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55 Responses to “Indian chai at the roadside”

  1. Anwesha says:

    Hey Shalu. How essential is the chai to every day life in India. Lovely post.
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  2. I didn’t drink much chai when I was in India–it is much too sweet for my taste. But I love Darjeeling tea (without sugar or milk). I bought a big bag of Darjeeling leaves during my first few days in India and made my own tea throughout my time in the country. I bet I drank at least a liter per day.
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  3. Agness says:

    That’s something interesting to know as I thought only Chinese are obsessed with drinking 100 different kinds of teas. I’ve been to Sri Lanka and noticed that locals often drank very sugary milky tea. Is it the same in India?

    • Shalu Sharma says:

      Hi Agness, you are right. We Indians drink a lot of tea. But the milk quantity will vary in other countries. I think the Pakistanis makes their tea in 100% milk. I am not sure what’s the situation in Sri Lanka. In India, the ratio of water and milk is around 70:30. But I guess in all South Asian countries, the essence of making chai is somewhat similar.
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  4. Hi Shalu,

    Oh yes…not a day passes without taking in a few cups of tea! The morning starts with a hot steaming cup, and while some people have quite a few cups all day long, I limit myself to just 2 cups in the whole day, except in the winters, when you do need more of it. And the rainy season, when they go SO well with the pakoras!

    Ginger and cardamom are all time favorites our end too, though some people tend to even add tea masala to their tea, so it depends on their own choices. However, the roadside tea has it’s own charm and taste, and I don’t think we can ever get the same flavor when we make it at home, isn’t it?

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice Sunday :)
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  5. This remind me of the tag line of Chai Point ….India runs on chai :) :D nice post…
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  6. Tea is identity of India. People are habitual of taking tea. Roadside tea stalls are very much common in our country and they are part of our daily life. I love my Chaiwala uncle, he is above 60, want to post his pic in this comment. But don’t know how?
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  7. Prasad Np says:

    Chai is the lifeline for most people in India and these small tea stalls provide the best tea.
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  8. I. C. Daniel says:

    To be honest I’m not that huge fun of tea, I’d like a glass of wine made ​​by me when I feel it. In reast I drink water and juice.
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  9. Vivek Baghel says:

    I’m from DELHI & I have tasted this tea at Chandni Chowk roadside. I went to Chandni Chowk on 5 “O” Clock with my friiend & We both tasted this tea. Well it was really nice experience of teach of Chandni Chowk.

  10. Pankaj says:

    Hi Shalu ji,

    I’m actually having tea right now and reading your post about tea. :) It’s totally true we Indians love tea, no matter either someone is rich or poor. And now winter is coming in couple of months then our tea intake will increase drastically.

  11. Pramod says:

    I love this post !
    Sipping hot tea in the morning with hot pohas early in the morning is what i love to do .Foreigners might be aware of the word tea ..when they visit India , they should try sipping tea with snack like Samosa..theyll surely love it . Thanks for sharing this article , video and the beautiful image .

    -Pramod
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  12. Aleah says:

    Love Indian chai. I had my Indian hosts show me how to make it. I couldn’t have enough of it when I was in your country!
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  13. Rita lopes says:

    hi shalu,
    i really thank you for sharing and writing such type of blog with us. i enjoyed it in reading and yes our chai stools at roadside are really good and i loved it too. you are doing a great job by posting such Wounderful blogs.
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  14. Jones says:

    I like Indian chai (TEaA) very much . Have tasted many times especially on road side in winters . It feels so awesome .

  15. I have been in Delhi 2 times & as Delhi is the capital of India so where are some place in Delhi. Where is unlimited crowd & Chandni Chowk is also one of them. I notice these small tea stall there in Delhi.

  16. Hi Shalu,

    I just had lunch, and now i have cravings for tea when i just read this post.. Ginger tea is my all time fave!

    Piyush
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  17. Mehndi Designs says:

    Indian Chai at road side, no matter what any doctor say but tastes is always amazing…..

  18. Simona says:

    There are so many differences in culture and traditions and it always very exciting to read more about your particular culture. I had no idea tea was such a big thing for you. Thank you for sharing, Shalu!

  19. Ashutosh from Google HummingBird Update says:

    Hi Shalu,

    Chai, the beginning of our day and your post brought back the memories of my college days. Indian chai on the roadside, hot discussions and hot debates about the system getting worse to worse every day.

    Somehow, that zeal is missing in metros and big cities. I remember, roadside chai dhabas are still used as a major junction point behind many Indian movements.

    Thanks for sharing such a hot chai topic. :)
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  20. Emran says:

    You are explain and discussion Indian culture. I think its a great post. You can going published your post. thank you.

  21. Sujit says:

    Chai at road side is really good, My day always starts with tea…
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  22. Fatima from boca home care says:

    Chai is essential for all the right reasons. Belonging to a neighbouring country I can so relate to the taste and feel of roadside chai. Your posts are always interesting Dear Shalu.

  23. Laura says:

    Indian chai, got it. I have added it to my list of must try out things in India. I hope to get to India rather earlier than later.
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  24. Arianne says:

    I’m also an Asian and I absolutely adore tea. I would try preparing chai the Indian way one of these days. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Michael Belk says:

    Shalu, I am starting to drink more tea. That sounds really good. I think I am going to try that tonight. Thanks

  26. Ankit says:

    Shalu,Please tell me.. Is there any way to get rid of tea addiction.

  27. Abhishek from boca home health says:

    Everywhere you can find the chai stalls in India as early as 5 am and some are open even in night. There is a different flavour to these roadside chai stalls. I have enjoyed these many a times late night with friends.

  28. Chetan says:

    I would say that “Chai” is a basic need for everyone. Although it is not very expensive and very little as Chaiwalas charge.
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  29. Chetan says:

    I would say “Chai” is a basic need for everyono even we are outsider. Although it is not very expensive and very little as Chaiwalas charge.
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  30. raj gaurav says:

    ya…Shalu, you’re right, Chai is that the lifeblood of india. I am going to always remember last winter, sitting in out-of-door chai outlets drinking creamy, ultra-sweet chai and samosas with friends.

  31. marytlou from contentwriterjaipur says:

    Roadside chai is sometimes thousand times better than the chai served in a five star hotel or a popular restaurant. I don’t know about the hygiene that’s followed in these roadside kitchens but the chai turns out to be reallly good.

  32. Hi Ma,am,
    I can’t imagine my mornings without tea, specially in winters. :) Having roadside tea in India is a unique experience. I really like tea served in soil utensils, it enhances the aroma of tea, isn’t it?? :)
    Great post, this is real taste of India :)
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  33. Indians start their day with Tea only and it is a must in India.
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  34. You said it Shalu! We adore tea! It has been an unavoidable drink throughout my life. More like elixir!

    During college days, we used to gulp down almost 5 cups of tea a day! It helped us a lot staying till late night and prepare for exams.
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  35. Jocker says:

    Belonging to a neighbouring country I can so relate to the taste and feel of roadside chai.
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  36. Jess and Brandon from Watch Me Wander says:

    Great post. If you have the right ingredients you can try to make it yourself. This video helps a lot. Thank you so much for sharing this post with us.
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