After Water,Chai Tea is the oldest and the most popular beverage in the world today.As we all are aware,millions of people across the world begin their day with a hot cup of  Chai Tea and there are scores of people in the modern world who cannot live without it.Though this habit is found mostly in Asia it surely has a global presence today.Am sure,as long as the humanity exists Tea exists.

It will be interesting to note the history of Chai Tea,which is an inseparable part of our life.

What Is Chai Tea :The Definition

Chai Tea is a hot beverage made of Tea leaves which are powdered into Tea dust through a mechanical process .Later,water is boiled to a certain point with the Tea dust added to it.Sugar,milk,spices or other herbs are added according to one’s convenience and when served hot it really gives an out of the world experience to the end user.Without adding anything some people prefer to have boiled water with only tea dust added to it.Dust is filtered out and the final product is called black tea.

The Cosmic Design And The Miracle Of Nature

Chai Tea is derived from the leaves of Tea plants and is believed to have originated in the forest lands of Western China,Tibet and Northern India.There is no exact time chronicled to claim the birth or discovery of Chai Tea but according to a Chinese legend,it was discovered in 2737 B.C. by the emperor of China,Shen-Nung.

While sitting under a tree in a forest he was boiling water and it may be believed that,as part of the Cosmic Design some leaves of that tree fell into that water and when tasted later gave the emperor an amazing feeling.This historical incident marked the entry of  Chai Tea into the human world. Later,In 59 B.C. Wang Pao,the poet laureate of a Chinese emperor,wrote”Tan Yuch”in which he mentioned about Chai Tea which is believed to be the first recorded detailing of Chai Tea.

Chai :The Derivation Of The Magic Word

Later Chinese gave a very wide publicity to Chai Tea not only by consuming it regularly but also by serving it to many foreign travelers and tourists who visited China those days.Tea is known as “Cha” in Chinese and later this word moved west ward and into the middle Eastern languages and finally settled down as “Chai” in most parts of Asia and mainly in India.

Though the word “Chai” is a house hold name in India today,it still owes its discovery in India to the Prince turned Monk,Siddhartha of Lumbini(Lord Gautam Buddha)According to the preachings and texts of Buddhism, propagating Buddhism Siddhartha was traveling towards China during sixth century and it was during that tour that He miraculously discovered the power of  Chai Tea.

Discovery Of Chai Tea In India :The Intervention Of Mother Nature

Gautam Buddha made a promise to His followers that for nine years he would meditate without sleeping.Five years later after reaching a place called Canton,He became drowsy while sitting in front of a wall for meditation.As was inspired by an intervention of Mother Nature,He involuntarily chewed a few leaves of a nearby tree and immediately felt a feeling of well being and revitalization.

Immensely pleased,He carefully collected the leaves of that tree,Camellia Sinesis,that helped Him to keep up His promise of meditating for nine years without sleep.He later moved towards Japan and the Buddhist Monks there in Japan received those Chai Tea leaves from Siidhartha and started consuming Chai Tea made out of those leaves to keep them alert during their meditation.Centuries later the renowned Japanese Tea master Sen-no Rikyu (1521-1591)developed it further and introduced it into the Japanese Tea ceremony,Chanoyu.

Journey Of Chai Tea From East Towards West

By the end of Ninth century,the Chai Tea culture spread from Japan to the Dutch East Indies and Java and from there moved on to many other sub tropical and tropical areas.Later during the sixteenth century,this delicious hot beverage called Chai Tea was introduced to the Europeans by a few traders who were traveling to and from the far East.And by the turn of eighteenth century Chai Tea became the national beverage of the Great Britan.

In the Seventeenth century,with the help of Americans Chai Tea crossed the shores of Atlantic and became very widely popular among the Americans.This popularity of  Chai Tea among the Americans led to the imposition of Tea tax by the British rulers in 1733.Infuriated by the attitude of the British,the colonists revolted by throwing tons of Chai Tea into the harbor and this incident is more popularly known as the Boston Tea Party today.

Innovations In Chai Tea And The Invention Of Tea Bag

Later,many innovations in Chai Tea consumption took place in America.In 1904,Thomas Sullivan a Tea merchant from New York has sent a few samples of Chai Tea packed in silky bags to his customers.Realizing the preciousness of the Tea those customers did not want to waste even a grain of it and dipped the emptied silk bags into boiled water and were surprised to find a cup full of Chai Tea generated out of it.

This led to the birth of the ready made Chai Tea bag that we dip into hot water today.

The Birth Of Chai Tea Industry In India

During the period of 1840 Robert Fortune,a Botanist,who was also a spy belonging to the East India Company,forcefully acquired thousands of Chai Tea bushes from China and planted them in India.Though this is an act of crime committed by this unpopular British Botanist it still led to the formidable establishment of Chai Tea crop as an industry in modern India today,which provides livelihood to many people in places like Ooty in South India and Assam in North Eastern Parts of India.Whether or not people believe it,I think this incident is an of Act of God and of Nature.

Conclusion

Though discovered in China,India ranks as the largest producer of Chai Tea today.With production of over 2.5 million metric tons of Chai Tea per annum India,China,Bangladesh,Sri Lanka,Korea,Japan,Turkey and Russia rank as the largest producers of  Chai Tea in the world.But surprisingly Sri Lanka remains the single largest supplier of  Chai Tea to the United States Of America.

How about having a cup of hot Chai Tea..??

Thank You

Alekhya Komaragiri

alekhya@naturechronicle.com

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