When does tea taste like coffee? When it’s made of roasted rice, says Meghalaya — challenging the conventional law of beverages. Meghalaya has rediscovered cha-khoo (cha is tea and khoo is rice in the local language), a traditional rice concoction yielding a beverage that hits the tea spot as well as the coffee bud.
The recipe is restricted to a few houses within a 10 sq km area in the northeastern state’s Jaintia Hills district, but efforts are on to lift the brew out of obscurity.
“Cha-khoo has resurfaced mainly because of a women’s self-help group (SHG) in Mynksan village under Laskein block,” Shanlang F Lyngdoh, project manager of MRDS-LIFCOM, said from state capital Shillong. “This refreshing drink tastes partly like tea and partly like black coffee.”
MRDS-LIFCOM expands to Meghalaya Rural Development Society-Livelihood Improvement Company, a state government wing working with international agencies for rural development.
According to Nidaio Lapasam, secretary of the Chirupdeilang SHG in Mynksan village, cha-khoo was prevalent in a group of villages in Laskein block, 94 km south of Shillong, until the British introduced tea.
“Cha-khoo involves roasting local red rice for some time, adding sugar during the process and straining in hot water. It was something our mothers gave us to be rejuvenated after working in the fields,” she said.
“Neither tea nor coffee can match the aroma of cha-khoo,” Lapasam added.
Lyngdoh said the nutritional value of cha-khoo was yet to be ascertained. “We are consulting experts. At the same time we are helping villagers package the unique beverage.”