While thinking about tea, the first shot rush to my memory is the ubiquitous Tea stalls in Kerala. Not only in Kerala but also all over India we can find that Tea is the only language that remains same throughout Indian geography while it keeps differences in its culture, religion, customs, food & costumes, etc. In their busy schedule of life, people don’t have sufficient time to fill their standard clock, but there is a tea time for them to spend where it is being in the home, office or street. We have national holidays, common electoral system, etc, then why not the tea time as a national break time or past time or avocation of Indians.
Usually, I prefer to have a cup of tea from road side “thelas” (small huts placing in the streets) than a restaurant or hotel. I remember the tea stall near to my ancestral home in Kerala, where the shop owner always keeps a sentence as his slogan “strong tea with or without sugar?” to his customers. Though I am a regular tea drinker from his stall, he used to ask this as a routine. And you can expect this question all around the “chaayakada” (tea shops) of Kerala.
The demand of “Adicha Chaya” (in Malayalam) or “One Meter Tea” is very much in the area. You might have heard of different types of tea: Black Tea, Olong Tea, Green Tea etc. and this “One Meter tea” sounds astonishing to non mallus. It is stretching the hands with 2 cups of tea by the length of One Meter to a potent concoction of brew. This One meter Chai is the special Tea of all typical Tea shops of Kerala. The sound of the tea pouring forcefully from one container to another is quite rhythmic. And the aroma shall spread all over the air. I felt making One Meter Chai is quite calisthenic and spouting out the bubbles formed at the top of the hot tea is another mouth exercise for the consumer.
The featured tea glasses with marks of continuous hard stirs with the steel spoons to saturate the sugar and spreading the strong aroma of the brew are unique here. We can identify the long existence of the tea shop by these characteristic glasses, boiler and the other utensils and it is like a trade mark of local tea vendors. But these small tea vendors never compromise with the hygiene.
Local tea stalls are very legendary in earlier movies. The Tea shops were the favorite location for many filmmakers. Tea talks and tea shops witnessed the story board of many Indian cinemas in earlier periods. Whether it is an intro of a hero or the climax of a movie, director’s chair always tend to revolve in a tea set only. Filmmakers of that phase believe tea shops are the very common point where people come to discuss politics, national & international news, and gossiping, economic situation, which is exactly true.
On a journey to Kudajadri, I recall, Roshan, my enthusiastic friend and guide claimed on the featuring of typical tea stalls in Malayalam movies with dark inside, while having tea from a dilapidated tea shack from the road side. When we entered the shop, Roshan grabbed the newspaper and put on the cloth of a newsreader. This is the common scene of a tea stall: a cup of tea and the newspaper. He starts reading aloud for himself and ends it for someone. You can neither keep silence nor feel alone in a tea stall. Because people are eloquent with their choice of topics. We relaxed for sometimes and decided to climb the Kudajadri hills, by appetizing the full flavored tea in the mouth.
Traditional tea shops with wooden benches and radio music are disappearing from our society now. Tea stalls are in progressive path and innovating its interior and infrastructures. I found those tea huts as the best place to gather and befriend and can enjoy the aromatic brew, tea. Hence, I recommend to all tea lovers that at least once in a while enjoy your aromatic brew, tea from a traditional tea stall and feel the nostalgia!!