Drink your Chai and break your cup
Indians have been making biodegradable chai cups for generations. This is a custom in Kolkata, India, of drinking chai out of tiny, unglazed, terracotta cups. This is a fascinating story of how, after a customer finished his or her chai, they would simply smash the cup on the ground. Because the shards were unglazed, the cup would simply dissolve over time in the rain and sun, and from the friction of peoples feet walking over it. Drinking chai this way was apparently a custom followed all over India. On India’s trains, people would sip tea out of the tiny cups, tossing them out the windows once they were empty, leaving behind trails of red shards that snaked along India’s railway tracks, all over the country. A gritty layer of dry clay would settle to the bottom of the cup of chai, giving every cup a subtle earthy flavor.
Tea shops in Kolkata have staunchly resisted plastic and Styrofoam. They kill the chai experience as any aficionado will tell you. Kolkata street tea is served in terracotta bhaars that give the chai a distinct earthy flavor. Please don’t freak out if you find a tiny mud chip sticking to your tongue! Count it towards the overall experience. And when you’re done, guess what? Roll down your window and drop the bhaar right on the street, with ne’er a qualm. Observe the childish glee you feel when you hear it smash with a satisfying “plok!”. Nobody will fine you for littering. Kolkata folks are not uptight and snarky that way. Besides it’s earth to earth, ashes to ashes: bhaars are Mother Earth’s best friend.
What is the best accompaniment with chai? Did you say samosas? Biscuit? Cake? Nicht, nicht and nicht. What goes best with chai is adda (chit-chat). Friends, chai and adda – is a lovely threesome. And believe me folks, it doesn’t get any better than that.