A Morning Thing

We get up (lazily, slowly, and only after spending exactly as much time as we want waking up and messing around), get dressed, and walk to the chai-wallah. He works on a street corner next to a vada stand. The chai world is the size of a child’s computer desk, but every bit of surface is used. This is a man who makes chai exactly how you like it (whoever you may be). The chai-wallah nods knowingly and smiles small but with great intensity. He pulls two small glasses from a wash bin and to each glass he adds a little scalding hot water from a bulky pot with a spigot. As far as I can tell, this is to warm the glass and perhaps to clean out any dust and such that might have flown in since it was washed. He then picks up the metal cup of magic and adds a very exact amount of (sugar?) powder, two heaping spoonfuls plus one just-this-much-more dash. He pushes back the cover of the hot milk tureen and dippers up a couple of sloshes worth. The cover is replaced. Now the beautiful part begins, and it is more varied. Sometimes the tea is old and has no more power. Sometimes it is fresh and lively. He lifts the cup with the flexible mesh (cheesecloth?) basket resting in it, rim over rim, handle lying over the side of the cup. If the brew is not good, flick go the contents into the bin under the tiny table. The mixture of tea leaves and spices is replenished from a large plastic container. He places the fresh masala (spiced) chai (tea) basket into its cup and puts the whole works under the hot water spigot. He adds enough to get things brewing. Sometimes the[…]

Read more