Chai & Sutta




Us Bengalis have a sort of emotional connection with“chai”. Yes you can be the millennial and call it tea, but chai is the best version for us. And the perfect combination is “chai sutta” that is tea with cigarettes. When it comes to Kolkata, there is a sudden upheaval in the rage of chai sutta. The streets are flanked by numerous small stalls which sells the best “dudh cha” (tea with milk) complimented with a pack of cigarette.Now I’m not a sutta person at all, but the heartwarming combination of tea brewed with cow’s milk with a bit of sugar, served in “matir bhaar” (also known as kulhad or small earthen clay pot) definitely hits the sweet spot. Chai is like the best addiction for us Bengalis. So let me explain how it goes.

“ghum pachhe? Cha kha”  ( feeling sleepy? Have some tea) 

“matha dhoreche? Cha kha” ( have a headache? Have some tea). I might add, the “adrak wali chai” is the best for this

“mood off? Cha kore di ektu kora kore chini diye?” ( feeling low? Should I make some strong tea with a bit more sugar?)

“ Thanda lagche? Ektu elach, lobongo, ada cha kha” (feeling cold? Have some tea with cardamom, clove and ginger)

“ei ektu cha korna, sondhebela singara diye khabo” ( hey, make some tea in the evening to have with samosas)

These are some of the daily uses of tea for us. It’s the most staple beverage that is perhaps present in every Bengali household along with rice. And its also a savior for us students who really have no money during the month endings for midnight snacks ( for obvious reasons). Tea saves us during our exams when we really need to study the whole night, because the entire year we were more interested in lyadh (laziness) which is also a quintessential part of the citizens of Kolkata. The hot beverage along with  sutta is central to the loved Kolkata pastime of  “adda” – a practice where friends gather to engage in long lively discussions about life, politics and art. In the 1920s, Kolkata and its communal “tea cabins” became the hub for popular tea drinking. These cabins were basic cafes which offered snacks, meals and tea at a cheap rate. As a part of adda tradition, men would gather over here to socialize and engage in well caffeinated discussions.
Matir bhaar is Kolkata’s traditional clay tea cups. Potters in the city shape these cups by hand from the clay dug from the bank of river Ganga. Although in many places, bhaar are being replaced with easily transportable plastic or paper cups, Kolkata still protects the essence of matir bhaarer cha as the earthy flavor of clay enhances the strong beverage.
The most popular varieties of tea which are must haves in Kolkata include dudh cha ( plain milk tea with a generous helping of sugar), ada cha ( ginger tea which included the addition of ginger to milk tea.The spicy, fragrant notes of ginger impart a refreshing flavor to the tea), masala cha ( this includes the addition of aromatic spices such as cardamom, cinnamon and pepper), liquor cha ( tea without milk which is reddish- amber in color), lebu cha ( salty- sweet lime tea which is a variation of liquor cha and includes sugar, lime juice, ginger, warm spices and sulfurous black salt), darjeeling cha ( a variety of liquor cha with a floral, fruity scent)

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