Most people around the world consider a cup of coffee a hug in a mug. Before that, tea was and still is the most widely consumed beverage in the world after water. Tea wasn’t always a drink, in ancient China, it was cooked and eaten with grains.
It was around 1,500 years ago that it shifted from food to a drink. People realised that the powder created by the plant of Camellia Sinensis combined with the heat and moisture creates a drink that soothes your insides.
There is more than one type of this beautiful drink. All made from the same plant but their taste and nature differ from one another. Depending on the basis of how long they are left on the shrub before they are harvested and how they are processed. The three main types are black, green and oolong.
Each having different characteristics and more than one medicinal purposes. So even when someone doesn’t like tea, they consume it for the numerous benefits.
It is uncanny how every single cup, is disparate from the one before. No matter how much of a precise method is followed. But everybody prepares it differently. Some add the powder to boiling water or milk. While the rest like an easier and a faster way where they just have to dip a tea bag in steaming hot water.
Tea Culture in Pakistan:
In my country though, it is preferred to be called ‘chai’. It mostly prepared with milk and served with a side of sugar as a choice, depending on how the other person likes their drink. In Pakistan, tea is more than a drink. It shows the sentiment of hospitality when served to guests who come over to our houses.
People connect over it as it eliminates the sense of awkwardness if you are meeting someone for the first time. One can even talk about their likes or dislikes of tea to initiate a conversation.
Being a Muslim country Pakistan, there is no alcohol culture. Instead, tea is used not only as a drink, rather an excuse to get together with friends and family.
This has led to the creation of Dhaba culture of chai (Dhaba is a roadside food stall). In Karachi, Dhaba culture is at its peak, you can find a Dhaba in every area.
Dhaba on a Saturday Night:
On a Saturday night, a Dhaba is full of groups of people, mostly millennials or families hanging out. There’s a clamour in the air. Multiple conversations going around, ranging from critical views of politics to people sharing their love for similar music.
Someone’s coughing and taking a sip of their tea to soothe their scratchy throat. While someone’s arguing heatedly with their company, they can take a sip to calm their nerves and get a hold of their emotions. There’s a mother trying to calm her crying infant so she can sip on her tea in a little peace to get rid of her tiredness and unwind. People laughing, clattering of cups against the tables. Shouting of orders of various teas, waiters hustling and bustling.
The cup of tea in every hand, at every table, is the foundation of every activity taking place at the Dhaba. It takes the lead role in the play of every conversation in every moment. One or another person is sipping their tea then speaking. Doing this over and over again but in a distinct manner every single time. The sole existence of that beverage is the reason for everything happening in that place at that moment.
The Role of the Non-Human Friend:
Tea is a prime object of our everyday life. It keeps one company whether sitting near the window watching the rain pour hard and reading a book. Or while trying to cram my last study session the night before the exam or to blur out every day strains embossed on one’s mind.
It works as an antidote; If I am stressed, it calms me. If I am sleepy it wakes me up, if I am ill, it helps me recover sooner. For most people, tea is not just a drink which provides an incentive to converse; it is like a constant non-human friend, a reason to enjoy your solitude.