Indian chai at the roadside

A Chai-wala in Chandni Chowk, New Delhi

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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55 thoughts on “Indian chai at the roadside

  1. 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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  2. 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?

    • 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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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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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  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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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  17. 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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