This article is about tea. Rather, it is about a mini-national crisis: the lack of a decent cup of tea at most Indian public places. It is something i have felt for decades and am finally venting about here.
I must apologise to those who find this a relatively lighter issue to write about. After all, there are other grave national emergencies. There is a song and dance Bollywood movie that people are ready to kill for. There’s pollution in Delhi that won’t go away, even if you only allow cars with prime-numbered licence plates.
There’s also the economy which, depending on whether you love or hate Modi, is in great or terrible shape. There are state elections, where sex tapes that show no sex and have no wrongdoing are being leaked. Sure, we can talk about all that weightier stuff.
However, the great Indian bad tea crisis is no joke either. It affects millions of Indians. It is a matter of national shame. The exact issue is this – why can’t we get a decent cup of boiling hot, brewed tea at our airports or offices?
Ask any Indian how he or she likes his or her tea. They will tell you chai has to be brewed and boiled for a few minutes, with water and a small amount of milk. Sounds simple enough, isn’t it?
No sir. Go to any airport in the country, and try to get a cup of tea like you make at home. You won’t get it. Instead, what you will get is a disgusting, synthetic version. It will contain coagulated milk powder and a tea bag with an ugly thread hanging out.
The temperature will be lukewarm to start with and refrigerator-cold by the time you manage to finish half a cup. The same is the case in most modern offices. The tea we get in our so-called high-end places is disgusting. It tastes and looks like leftover water in the sink with sugar added.
All this is happening in a country where tea is a life force. Indians don’t just love tea; they can’t live without it. Tea for Indians is like blood or hormones or enzymes or whatever fluid your body needs to function. And yet, you have seen them – the thousands of groggy-eyed people at any airport every morning. As they take those godforsaken early morning flights, they beg for tea.
You have been there too – at one of those shops with a noisy tea-machine that spews out lukewarm dirty water, laden with too much sugar. To have a bad cup of tea in the morning is to ruin your day. It creates an existential crisis, making you question the entire purpose of living.
Even on the plane in ‘full-service’ airlines, they drop warm water in in your cup. They then give you a milk powder packet that bursts when you open it, blasting white powder all over your clothes (maybe that happens only to me). Finally, they give you something that should have been made illegal long time ago – a pathetic teabag with the thread that’s probably there to strangle yourself.
How have we as a nation allowed ourselves to get here? If a song and dance film can launch nationwide protests and cause chief ministers to write letters, how do we tolerate bad tea every day? You, the people who work in modern offices or travel from airports, does your blood not boil when a bad cup of tea is shoved in front of you in a soggy paper cup?
Do you not want to smash that machine that makes more noise than a diesel auto, only to throw out warm waste water? How can we as Indians look at each other in the eye when we have not been able to find a solution for something as simple and vital as, tea?
Sure, this isn’t important enough, some will say. No PM will launch an “Acchi Chai” scheme to transform tea-making in public places. In government offices, enough peons exist, and face suspension if they dare give their babus bad tea. No court will ban bad tea either, even though the judges pass through those airports and see the injustice happen in front of their eyes every day.
Still, it matters. We as Indians need to fight for tea. Globalisation doesn’t mean we adopt everything western or give up something we have down perfect – a hot cup of Indian masala tea. Travel anywhere in the world, a good chai (with Parle G biscuits or rusks) is unmatched as a hot beverage.
If every street corner and home can get it right, then our airports and offices can too. We just need to demand it. We need to innovate here, to ensure tea remains of a certain quality. Unfortunately, like Indians often do, we have accepted mediocrity here too.
Nevertheless, we should stand up for good tea. To all those entrepreneurs out there – this is a billion dollar idea. Make an automated tea machine that makes decent tea. Open fires aren’t allowed everywhere, we need machines which make tea like we like it. Piping hot, brewed and boiled.
A good cup of tea is the easiest way to make Indians happy. An invigorating first cup of tea is a start to an “accha din”. Let’s fix this and not accept the machine made mediocrity served to us. Anyway, all this tea talk has made me crave a cup. Wanna join?