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The cuppa that cheers

Though the term chai has not yet made it to dictionaries, the word has entered echelons of globalisation., writes Shalini Narang.

india Updated: Mar 30, 2006 13:39 IST

Though the term for our popular and much loved beverage -- chai, has not yet made it to any of the popular English dictionaries, the word has nevertheless entered the famed echelons of globalisation with its universal usage.

Like the terms -- yoga, guru, karma and others, chai also needs a formal inclusion of sorts in the prestigious lexicons having carved a proverbial gastronomic and lingual niche of sorts.

Many of the mainstream tea connoisseurs in America, especially the regulars at the Starbucks stores, ask for the varied concoctions of the popular drink by its non-English name, without necessarily knowing its origin.

For the uninitiated, Starbucks is America's leading retailer, roaster and brand of specialty coffee with stores in North America, Europe, Middle East, Latin America and the Pacific Rim.

My education and enlightenment about the term chai having made it to the vocabulary of mainstream Americans, like many of the other experiences in life, happened accidentally-serendipity of sorts.

A couple of years back a colleague of mine with whom I shared an office, walked in one day with the omnipresent Starbacks cup in her hand.

I presumed it to be the morning cup of coffee, but as a part of exchange of morning greetings and in an attempt to make small talk, I said, "Coffee before the computer."

She corrected me by saying, "No, Tazo Chai before the computer." I thought I did not hear correctly, so I asked her again: "What did you just say."

She said, "Tazo Chai-it's a tea at Starbucks."

I smiled and told her that she just spoke Hindi with me.

"Tazo comes from the word tazaa implying fresh in Hindi and Chai means tea."

I told her with a sense palpable pride.

She was delighted to hear the lingual roots of her favorite drink's origin and thanked me for the explanation and elucidation about the beverage.

My curiosity was pleasantly aroused and I halted at the Starbucks store on my way back home in the evening.

The brochure on recycled paper about teas in the popular store listed: Organic Tazo Chai-a true masala chai in the style of the chai wallahs of India using sustain ably grown black teas from the Assam valley in India.

I smiled after reading the description while parallely contemplating which chai wallah in India could charge $ 3.99 for a cup of chai.

Without further ado, I ordered the deliciously described concoction.

The price and the taste did not suit by purse and palate. I prefer my home blend of Taj Mahal and Green Label.

After several years, once again, our humble chai is in news.

Thirteen tea companies from India are participating in the 3-day World Tea Expo from March 27th through 29th at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas.

Some of the companies from India to feature in the expo include Nilgiris Planters Association, Nilgiris Indco Teas, Nipur Teas, tea Board of India, Agarmet Corp, Chamong Tea Exports, Girnar Food and Beverage ltd, Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology and the Marco Polo Products Ltd.

The World Tea Expo is an annual premier market place, trade show and a conference about tea.

It has been one of the fastest growing trade shows in the US in line with the growth of the tea business in North America.

After water, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world, and with the tea market exploding in America; tea represents an exciting profit centre.

The event-packed World Tea Expo hosts hundreds of the finest wholesale tea, tea-related product vendors, and a huge selection of information-filled tea seminars.

The Nilgiri Planters Association in conjunction with the Tea Board of India will host the first-ever tea auction in US, featuring premium teas grown in the Nilgiris in the Special Events section to promote awareness of orthodox and premium tea production from the Nilgiris region.

Forty- two freshly harvested teas in five kg and ten kg quantities will be set for sampling and auction on Wednesday March 29th.

Cultural, culinary, clothing and other exchanges not only help us learn about each other but many a times also offer an in sight into our own unparallel heritage or our cupboards.

First Published: Mar 30, 2006 13:39 IST