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.

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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.

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Masala tea at the New Delhi Railway Station

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Shalu Sharma

Shalu Sharma is a blogger and a writer from Bihar, India. She is the founder of YouBihar, the Bihar social networking site and writer on tourism in India. Apart from blogging, she is also a mother who does cooking and washing. She also watches movies and read other blogs. You can follow her on .

56 thoughts on “Indian chai at the roadside

  • September 29, 2013 at 10:18 am
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    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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    • September 29, 2013 at 12:09 pm
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      Daniel, Its all down to taste. Some like it sweet, some without sugar, some like it extra strong and so on. Same thing with coffee. I bet that Darjeeling tea was nice.
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  • September 29, 2013 at 12:09 pm
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    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?

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    • September 29, 2013 at 12:15 pm
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      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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  • September 29, 2013 at 12:55 pm
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    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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  • September 29, 2013 at 6:57 pm
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    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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    • October 5, 2013 at 7:20 am
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      In addition, the roadside tea in India tastes a lot better. Thanks for your comment.
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  • September 29, 2013 at 8:53 pm
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    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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  • September 30, 2013 at 9:33 am
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    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.

    Reply
  • September 30, 2013 at 10:28 am
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    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.

    Reply
    • October 5, 2013 at 7:44 am
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      Pankaj, tea is one of those thing that no matter who you are in India, they all love it. Thanks for your comment.
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  • September 30, 2013 at 11:13 am
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    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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    • October 5, 2013 at 7:45 am
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      I am sure those visiting India will like the Indian style tea with the snacks.
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  • October 1, 2013 at 10:43 am
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    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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    • October 5, 2013 at 7:46 am
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      Alea, I am happy to know that you like the Indian chai. Thanks for your comment.
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  • October 2, 2013 at 7:40 am
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    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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  • October 3, 2013 at 6:54 am
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    I like Indian chai (TEaA) very much . Have tasted many times especially on road side in winters . It feels so awesome .

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  • October 3, 2013 at 8:39 am
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    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.

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    • October 5, 2013 at 7:53 am
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      Claudia, these tea stalls are everywhere in India. You can’t fail to see it.
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  • October 3, 2013 at 8:46 am
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    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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  • October 4, 2013 at 10:23 am
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    Indian Chai at road side, no matter what any doctor say but tastes is always amazing…..

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  • October 4, 2013 at 11:47 pm
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    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!

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  • October 6, 2013 at 7:36 am
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    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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  • October 6, 2013 at 7:54 am
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    You are explain and discussion Indian culture. I think its a great post. You can going published your post. thank you.

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  • October 6, 2013 at 8:17 am
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    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.

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  • October 8, 2013 at 1:50 pm
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    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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  • October 9, 2013 at 11:05 pm
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    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.

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  • October 12, 2013 at 4:03 am
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    Shalu, I am starting to drink more tea. That sounds really good. I think I am going to try that tonight. Thanks

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    • October 14, 2013 at 10:53 am
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      Michael, try the Indian styled tea. You might like it. Do let us know if you liked it.
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  • October 13, 2013 at 4:57 pm
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    Shalu,Please tell me.. Is there any way to get rid of tea addiction.

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  • October 14, 2013 at 2:41 pm
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    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.

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  • October 22, 2013 at 5:48 am
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    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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  • October 22, 2013 at 5:52 am
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    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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  • October 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm
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    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.

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  • October 24, 2013 at 2:48 pm
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    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.

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  • November 11, 2013 at 1:18 pm
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    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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  • November 19, 2013 at 8:54 am
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    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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  • December 11, 2014 at 12:12 pm
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    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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  • December 27, 2014 at 9:24 am
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    yes tea is the basic morning requirement of every Indians. I also drink for 3 to 5 times a day.

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