lesson 1: how to order tea

My first few months living in India after spending the last 11 years away have been very educational.  One of the things I’ve learnt is the art of ordering tea.  Regardless of where the ordering is being done (roadside tea stall, coffee shop, fancy hotel), just saying “tea” is not enough.  Specific instructions must also be added.  These instructions can be fairly straightforward, like “less sugar” or “extra strong”, or very complicated like “add 3 partly opened cardamom pods, take them out after 3 minutes, then add the sugar”.

If one has no specific preference for how the tea is made, it is advisable to add arbitrary ornamentation with adjectives like “special” or “extra special”.

“What would you like boss?”


“Ok, chai”

“Actually give me a bumper chai.”

“Ok, one bumper chai. Anything else?”

“Do you have any special snacks?”

“No sir, we only have special tea.”

“Ok, I will take the extra-special tea.”


Half full or half empty? Doesn't really matter. Is it a special chai? Good question.

Next post: Either lesson 2: malaria and postmodernism or Elephants or something else.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anne Johnson
    Dec 07, 2010 @ 08:06:24

    what in the world is a bumper chai? I’m envisioning a little tea glass swaddled inside a floaty rubber inner-tube. I’ll go ahead and guess that’s not it.


  2. Kabs
    Dec 07, 2010 @ 16:03:41

    exceptionally large, fine, or successful:
    a bumper crop

    I guess it’s one of those Indianisms


    • Urvashi
      Dec 07, 2010 @ 18:05:37


      What “bumper” are you referring to here?

      There is also masala chai, kadak chai, with more or less sugar, with or without ginger. I just had a small cup myself from our canteen.


  3. Tina
    Dec 07, 2010 @ 16:31:32

    that was my question exactly…..keep them coming!


  4. Tommy
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 17:01:00

    so… what does normal chai, or “just” chai taste like?

    would it be something like…. “how would you like your coffee?”

    “black, but diluted and tepid.”


  5. suma
    Dec 14, 2010 @ 12:47:56

    in bijapur/ukkali, they have something called ‘K’ tea. I don’t know what the K stands for, but it tastes different everywhere you go. I think it just has more milk in it.


  6. Skyder
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 05:26:00

    Kabs, there’s also chai that’s sold by mileage: 200 km chai, 500 km chai. That’s how long 1 cup of tea is meant to keep u awake.


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