Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tea,anyone ?

Anyone who's lived in South-India for any amount of time will definitely be familiar with the small Tea-shops that dot the sides of the streets ,everywhere.

Indian Tea-shops(Tea Kadais,as they are known in Tamil) are a generic structure-They are all small hole-in-the-wall joints,having a bench or two right outside the establishment for customers to seat themselves,and most of them have not more than two employees - One person to prepare Tea,Coffee or other simple hot milk-based beverages,and another person to collect and wash the glass cups in which the drinks are served,and to help the tea-maker (AKA Tea-master) with other 'trivial' tasks.

The Tea shops also usually have stocks of snacks,that go well with the drinks - Savory local favorites such as Murukku(A snack made by deep-frying spiced millet dough in patterns that sometime resemble fractals),Thattais(A small hardened spicy pancake made from a spiced dough similar to the murukku batter,but more granular) and mixtures(An unimaginative name for an awesome snack made by mixing up small batches of other savory and sweet snack-foods) and butter cookies and tea-cakes.Apart from these,Tea-shops also act as newspaper stockists,with a number of national and regional broadsheets available for purchase).

Tea-shops are an important part of smaller towns and villages,where they serve a function,not unlike the taverns of 18th century England -People meet together at the Tea-shops,and discuss whatever is the most pressing news at that time-From disappointing cricket scores to the new political developments that have happened in the country.

Tea-shops are a classic example of local ,generic non-franchised businesses that are very hard to find in a lot of other places,with many food and drink chains opening up their 'branches' everywhere around the world.Also,Many tea-shops are shunned by the younger population who tend to prefer the larger and more expensive coffee-chains that have cropped up everywhere,due to the perceived 'coolness' factor associated with them.This is especially true in the bigger cities like Chennai and Bangalore.Also,many Tea-shops are looked down upon by the younger population as 'unhygienic' and 'dirty' ,even if the beverage preparation is done in the open,for all to see.

In spite of the many such hard-times that have fallen upon them,they will never ever disappear,for they have become an integral part of the scenery in South India,much like the Hot dog stands of New York and the Fish&Chips shops of London.To many South Indians,sometimes all that it takes to set right a day that has been bad to one is a perfect cup of Tea from the local Tea-Kadai,with a Thattai to go with it.

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