It had been a long and terrible night. Stirring from my sleep as sunlight filtered through the blinds across my eyes, I was overjoyed to find myself feeling quite a bit better than when I had gone to sleep. Just a friendly and wise note: if you attend a shot-luck, participate moderately and NEVER take a super-shot, a concoction of all the hard liquor available (and there was a lot), smack in the middle. I will never, ever do that again. After a number of terrible hours in the early morning I finally slipped into a wonderful sleep. Hours later I woke up, luckily without a headache, and my stomach had settled. Still, I felt a gross grogginess. After a lot of grumbling and groaning I found myself walking from the bus station to the event I had promised to cover for the student newspaper, Omega. I was attempting to absorb the crisp morning air and wake myself up, but by the time I arrived at the Commodore Grande Café and Lounge I was still groggy and instead feeling utterly worn out.
That blissfully changed less than five minutes after I swung the door open.
With a teacup nestled in my hands and modest snacks scattered on a napkin before me, I molded myself to my chair and observed the crowd moving through the display. As soon as I took my first sip I melted into my seat. I can see why some people have a need for chai in their routine every morning. With more body than the Blueberry Explosion tea I make from loose tea leaves each morning, this chai was like warm milk, but with a rich taste.
I asked for the ingredients for the specific chai I enjoyed and was told this was in it:
-Tea Leaves (any kind)
I was attending an outreach event designed to introduce the culture of chai, or tea, in India. The exhibit, Sipping Culture encouraged those who attended to explore the taste, sight, smell and social aspect of chai.
“Ask anyone in India. The tea stall is important,” Christine Anderson, the organizer of the exhibit, told me as we sat at a table chatting for my Omega article. Wandering around the display of photos at the event I wasn’t surprised by her comment. She’d found tea stalls in many levels of Indian society: slums, hotels, city streets and country roads. She’d even been shocked by the isolated location of some of the tea stalls.
A second year graduate student in the Masters of Arts, Intercultural and International Communication program at Royal Roads University in Victoria, Anderson created the exhibit as a school project. Featuring a visual display consisting of the photos she took in India, a mock Indian tea stall and the sound of Indian streets, attendees of the event were pulled right into the experience.
“I don’t see the tea stall going anywhere,” said Anderson.
After spending time in India and on the web researching how the people of India interact with chai, she put together Sipping Culture and asked Ankur Sud, an international Indian student to brew the chai for the event. Recruiting Fariaa Zaidi, a student from Pakistan, Sud was at the mock Indian tea stall stirring and pouring chai for all those who attended.
“I’m really pleased with the turnout,” said Anderson glancing around the room as people circled the display and stopped before the mock Indian tea stall.
The exhibit saw 10 to 12 people at a time between 1 to 5 p.m. which meant the crowd flowed well through the display and Anderson could answer all the questions. She moved from person to person speaking of the social significance of chai, particularly in areas of illiteracy. And how it is such a revenue generator the Indian government recognizes tea stalls as part of the economy. With the introduction of Starbucks in India in 2012, Anderson is interested in how the company will fare and how it will affect the local tea stalls.
Ankur Sud, an Indian tourism student, has been travelling to India since childhood. He was asked by TRU world to help Anderson with her project by brewing the chai.
“They’ve had tea at my place a couple times,” he said smiling cheerfully as he lifted the boiling chai from an element and set it aside to cool. “They liked my tea.”
Jun Fu, a TRU student, told me he enjoyed the familiar presence of chai. I was sitting near the mock Indian stall and struck up a conversation with him.
“We Chinese drink tea too,” he said. “I like to drink tea to talk to people.”
Nodding over my chai I couldn’t help but agree. I was after all living the experience of social interaction born of sharing thoughts over tea. Just moments earlier I had been immersed in a conversation with another student about life in Kamloops and studying abroad.
I also had a short talk with Fariaa Zaida, a TRU student from Pakistan, who further illustrated the reach of chai across the world when she was asked to assist Sud with making the chai.
“Some people need to drink chai everyday,” said Zaida. She said she’s not one of those people, but she often makes chai for visitors.
So there you have it, the perfect method to meet and socialize with people of different cultures is to get into chai! There are so many different combinations you should be able to find something you enjoy drinking.