Bhaiyya. Ek Cutting. Kadak: Chai Culture At The Indian Workplace

Posted by: Spandana Bandari

Designation: Associate

Date: December 31, 2023

The love for chai is an ever-present reality in India, especially in the workplace. The temperature outside may be 4oC r 45oC but rarely has an Indian shied away from a chai invitation. Every Indian workplace, be it an astir corporate office or a small business, each entity has it’s own chai culture. Employees of all levels engage in a ‘chai ritual’ where they gather at the office pantry or a chai stall (tapri) to have tea. An affordable beverage, all loves chai irrespective of socioeconomic differences.

Tea culture in India can trace its roots back to ancient times, where it began as a potion of herbs and medicinal infusions. Making its debut in Asia around 3000 BC and initially served as an herbal drink, an exclusive beverage for the nobility. Its initial iteration was a combination of spices, with no actual tea leaves involved.

A transformative moment came as tea was discovered (or invented) in China. But it was during the era of British colonial rule that the concept of tea, as we currently understand it, evolved. The British East India Company exploited the natural climate of parts of India to compete with China and developed tea plantations in India. Creating an alternative source to China of the valuable “Chain” tea. . The aromatic and flavoursome chai we enjoy today is the product of a gradual fusion of Indian flavours and spices with the British tea tradition over time. The classic Earl Grey being an excellent example with Bergamot added to the black tea.

The Japanese have their tea ceremony and in an Indian and in a professional setting, the scent of freshly brewed tea plays a similar cultural unifying role. The focus to promote togetherness and provide moments of rejuvenation. It offers a welcome break from work-related pressures, an opportunity to relax, and a means of building meaningful connections with colleagues. During these in India informal interludes, the rigid boundaries of workplace hierarchies fade, creating an open and friendly atmosphere where ideas flow freely, and team cohesion is reinforced.

Presenting a cup of tea or coffee to clients, visitors, or guests is a gesture of hospitality and respect. It reflects the time-honoured Indian tradition of treating guests as esteemed figures, conveying that their presence is highly valued and held in high regard.

In a society where the notion of achieving a balance between work and personal life is evolving, these moments of serenity take on an even greater significance.

Employees eagerly anticipate their daily tea ritual as they sit at their desks and diligently work under stringent deadlines. The interesting thing about routines is that we often perform them without much thought, yet when they are skipped, a sense of vague incompleteness remains. In India, Chai is akin to this phenomenon. Particularly for those office dwellers who are attempting to shake off the drowsiness following a lethargic post-lunch period. Our natural inclination is always to extend the tea break, even if it means enduring the scorching heat, pollution, and noise outside. Nonetheless, no matter how hard we try, the unspoken deadline inevitably arrives, and we make our way back to work.

In India’s urban and rural areas alike, you can invariably find Chai wallahs, or tea vendors. These experts skilfully blend tea, milk, and spices in large or medium sized pots, crafting a potion that not only soothes the soul but also invigorates the senses. Chai wallahs transcend their role as mere tea vendors; they are also custodians of tradition and connectors in the bustling urban landscapes.

The masala spices used in our chai have been utilized as remedies in India for centuries. Ingredients like cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom possess natural warming properties that can enhance circulation and offer a sense of comfort on chilly days. These spices are also known to stimulate cognitive function, increasing productivity and creativity.

The caffeine in Chai lingers in your bloodstream long after you have finished your cup, reducing the need for consecutive refills. This translates to less time spent shuttling back and forth to the kitchen and more time to focus on work, enabling you to meet your deadlines.

Regardless of the season, tea remains an enduring tradition in India. It is ideal for the country’s hot climate because sipping piping hot tea triggers the body’s cooling responses, effectively lowering body temperature. Likewise, it provides warmth during the winter months, and no rainy season is complete without this magical brew.

The inclusive nature of Chai culture is epitomized by the ‘Chai adda’, where ideas are shared, relationships are nurtured, and perspectives are broadened.

So, as you sip your next cup of Chai, remember that you are participating in a timeless, universal, and deeply revered tradition that unties more than just India it connects to many other cultures as well.

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