I just bought a ‘spiced chai’ at Pret, one of those white-tile-and-stainless-steel-adorned cafe chains in London. My tea has been served in a thick paper cup with a thin plastic lid; when I look inside I discover it’s a pyramid-tea-bag-in-hot-water-with-a-hint-of-some-steamed-milk kind of chai. And to my disappointment it tastes like it. It’s bland to say the least. It’s not really an authentic ‘indian masala chai’ like I used to drink from one of those bit-of-freshly-swept-mud-floor tea stalls along the road in India, full of sugar and black tea leaves and boiled with milk (likely from a cow in the nearby village) and water from some dubious source where you just pray that the cup has been washed somehow to resemble clean – and when you take a first sip and the cardamon or ginger comes through and the colour is a nice milky dark brown and the sweetness of the sugar rushes to your head – you notice that life is suddenly very good in that little bit of India.
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