The Cutting Chai Chronicles

by Aparna Sharma
Cutting chai

Cutting chai is synonyms with Mumbai, it is probably the most common street food cart across the city. I was walking near Gateway of India at 6 am a few weeks back and suddenly I get the steaming smell of chai flavoured with spices. could not help myself from getting a glass and enjoying the taste of a mouthwatering cup of hot chai. There were many vendors selling different breakfast snacks and the traffic was starting to get busy at 6 am.

Cutting Chai with vada pav
Mumbai style – Cutting Chai with vada pav

Typically, a cutting chai in Mumbai is half a cup of tea. The cup is half full because it is best enjoyed that way, that is the reason the Mumbai tea got the name ‘Cutting chai’. It literally translates to ‘cut into half’. Tea is an important part of life in India and most people drink tea with different snacks. Cutting chai is usually served with vada pav in Mumbai but in Delhi, tea is almost always served with Pakoras and Samosas and in Kolkata, street vendors usually sell Jhalmuri along with tea. India is so diverse and tea has so many different recipes and accompaniments.

Cutting Chai with pakoras
Delhi style – Cutting Chai with pakoras

Cutting Chai with Jhalmuri
Kolkata style – Cutting Chai with Jhalmuri

The Cutting chai recipe:

Considering its small quantity, cutting chai should be flavourful and aromatic. It should have the perfect balance of spices, aroma and strength to make a person fall in love with it in just one sip. It is usually made by blending different types of tea leaves and adding spices which include fresh ground cardamom, fennel seeds and ginger. 

The easiest way to make this in Bangkok is to but a bag of Chai from any Indian departmental store. Boil half a cup of water with 1 teaspoon on chai powder, you can add fresh 1 inch of ginger, 2 cardamom pods and a few fennel seeds to the water and let it boil. Add the milk and sugar in the end and strain before drinking. Boiling for a longer time ensures all the spices are infused into the water.

Enjoy your cup of cutting chai and if you are visiting Mumbai, don’t forget to try a cup from a street vendor….I hope I have convinced you to add cutting chai in Mumbai to your bucket list of travel experiences.

Chai wallah - tea street seller
Chai wallah – tea street seller

She has her own travel and style blog.
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