“Ek garam chai ki pyali ho” has been seen as one of the most popular songs that fits into India’s love for chai. Be it headache, stress or the visit of a guest, “ek cup chai” is the solution for everything. It is indeed fascinating to observe that the days of going to posh coffee cafes are fading away to be replaced by tea.
Whether it is the JP Tea Stall of North Campus in Delhi University or the fancy Chaayos with its varied types of chai, tea seems to be beating the coffee shop culture in business and trend alike.
According to the Tea Board of India, the total production of tea in November 2017 was 1250.4 million kg, while the Coffee Board of India website shows that total coffee production stood at 312 million kg in 2016-2017.
Coffee chains like Costa Coffee, Cafe Coffee Day and Barista have been shutting loss-making stores. Barista, Costa Coffee and Cafe Coffee Day have shut around 35 to 40 stores each over the last one year across the country, according to company officials.
Italian coffee roaster Barista Lavazza has entirely exited the coffee shop business in India.
In 2015, Chaayos had a total of 15 cafes in the Delhi/National Capital Region region and by 2016, it expanded to Mumbai with a total of 33 cafes in the country. Today, Chaayos operates in six cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Gurugram, Noida, Ghaziabad, Chandigarh) with 53 cafes.
The local tea stall culture
College students and office-goers of the country crowd up their nearest local tea stalls throughout the day. The local tea stall does not even need any marketing skills to promote itself or any brand name for people to follow them. Even then a minimum of four to five people will always be spotted there at any time of the day.
In addition, the very local lingo of youngsters consists of the common phrases of “chai-sutta”, “chai-biscuit” and so on. Chai is everywhere!
Coffee is a delicacy and not a regular habit. While a good cup of coffee will cost you up to 200 Rs., tea is easily available for not more than 20 Rs.
The famous chai-wallah
This tea-stall culture is an undocumented history of every town in the country. The knowledge of the town’s chaiwallah is passed around orally without any advertisements! Each town has its own famous tea-stall where everybody goes to, perhaps everyday more than once. It brings people from all sections of the society together as people gather around there.
For instance, during my recent visit to Rishikesh, I was told to visit a particular tea-stall by an aged dada-ji who opens his shop at 9 pm at night till 7 am in the morning. Tea-lovers visit his stall set in a small corner of the city as they go for their late night strolls or early morning walks. The story of this aged man is heard of by all. He is also famous for his “bun-butter”.
Chai is winning over coffee
Chai café chains are now catching up to compete against the coffee chains. With its repeat customer rate of 42% every month, Chaayos is posing a big enough challenge to coffee chains.
Tea-point, Chai Point, Jug Mug Thela, Chaayos are new chains that have opened up and their menus offer a varied range of chai. Chaayos even has its bestseller named “Meri waali chai” which can be customized according to your own likes!
This modern version of a local tea-stall has tried its best to retain its eccentricity by offering snacks like egg-buns, Maggi, pakoras, vada pav etc.
The growing tea business is quite evident in its new and stylized tea-cafes and again in the continued popularity of the local tea-brewers. When you look back on your childhood, you would realize that chai has been an inevitable part of our Indian lifestyle. How we used to get adrak wali chai when we had cold/cough. or how each of our households begin their day with a cup of it.
So let’s say goodbye to the expensive cappuccino and café latte and not forget the masala chai we have always loved!
Image Sources: Google Images