Chai Tea Is Not Just About Sipping Something Delicious

Chai Tea Is Not Just About Sipping Something Delicious

How can you explain the deep significance of something so seemingly simple?

For my very last women's studies class of the semester, we had what my professor calls a "Feast of Resistance," where each person brings in a food or drink that is important to their family or to them and represents a struggle or victory over something in some way. The idea is predicated from the quote "Food is the only language we have in common." (With this I'd disagree, because what about music? I won't get into it now because that would be a whole other article.)

But food is something that people can bond over, across cultures. Food is extremely important. Most of the time, for immigrants who have left their home lands behind, left their families behind, who have to find ways to be themselves in a place that is nothing like them at all, food is the one thing they can control.

Food is often the one thing they have that keeps them connected to that past.

This is great and all, and so my two Indian friends and I brought cake rusk, a sweet Indian snack eaten with chai, but when I stood up there and found myself having to explain the significance of this food (which was more about the significance of chai) I found myself at a loss for words.

How do I begin to explain what chai is? What chai means to me and to my family and to my identity as an Indian? Sure, all my desi readers right now are probably like "Okay, its just chai, chill out dude," and my non-desi readers are like, "Chai? I know what that is, that's good stuff, why can't you explain it? It's just tea."

Except it's not just tea. It's not that simple. Chai holds an incredible amount of significance to my life. Chai, for me, is Saturday mornings with my mom, dad, and brother, right before breakfast. Chai is that warm, sweet, milky concoction running down my throat as we call my grandparents in India over FaceTime.

Chai is the catalyst that opens up a conversation between me and distant relatives coming to visit. Chai with guests is a ritual, one I've come to love because of the connections it creates. Chai is that warm mug of relief when my mom comes home from work on Wednesday evenings. Chai is the first Indian food I learned to make. Chai is the same everywhere, yet so, so different.

There's a science behind the perfect ratios of milk to water to tea leaves to sugar. And then when you're advanced enough, you add ginger, ground black pepper, dried basil, cardamom. A perfect blend, and everyone does it differently. Chai at Nani's house is different from chai at Taiji's house is different from chai at my house is different from the chai my brother makes.

But chai anywhere is a connection. A connection to people, a connection to India, to my parents, grandparents. Chai is so much more than a drink I pick up at Starbucks. Chai is the experience, history, and culture that I call my own.

That's the thing about culture. It's not so much the thing itself, as the meaning surrounding it. No, chai itself isn't that special. Anyone can make chai. Anyone can steep loose tea leaves in water and add milk and make chai. But it's the years of meaning behind chai, the memories, the connections I've formed through chai.

It's the same for any aspect of my Indian culture, whether that's eating dal chawal (lentil soup and rice) with my bare hands, feeling my food before I eat it, or getting dressed up in a lengha, or putting on mehendhi (henna). It's the significance behind each of these artifacts and what they mean to each person and each family.

It's like this in any culture. For me, Christmas is not nearly as special or meaningful as it is for my Christian friends, whose families have celebrated those traditions for so long. They have real memories attached to their Christmas traditions, just as I do with my Indian traditions.

Something about traditions just root us so strongly to our families and culture. These little indulgences into my culture with these traditions, I can't explain in words what they mean to me. I can't explain their significance adequately. But they are so important. It connects me to my grandparents, to my mother and father. It recenters me, grounds me, reminds me who I am and where I come from.

How do you begin to explain something so simple yet so significant?

Cover Image Credit: flickr

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10 Food And Drink Spots To Try In The Boca Raton, Florida Area

Discover the hidden gems.

If you're in south Florida or visiting, there are many hidden gems in the Boca Raton area to dine at. As a resident who has been living here for 14 years, I've seen new places pop up but I have also discovered places that have been here for a long time and man, was I missing out. As a self-proclaimed foodie, I'm always on the hunt for obscure places to try.

So, foodies, this one is for you! Here are 10 spots to try in the Boca Raton area:

1. Cinnaholic

Located in East Boca. This is every Vegan and non-vegan's place to go. Create your own cinnamon bun! You get to pick your frosting and topping.

2. Boon's Asian Bistro

Located in West Boca. If you love sushi and well-priced food, this is your go to. Located in West Boca. This is my all time favorite place to go. I have never disappointed with any of the food choices and the employees are friendly and provide swift service.


Located in Central Boca. This is liquid nitrogen ice cream on crack. You can get your ice cream in a cup OR on a cookie. And not just any cookie-- one of your options is a smores cookie.

4. Pizza Rustica

Located in East Delray Beach. A great place to get pizza after the beach or after a late night out with friends (They're open until 3 A.M!). My favorite is their smores pizza. Oh, and their prices are amazing!

5. The Funky Buddha Lounge and Brewery

Located in East Boca. A great place to grab a drink with your friends and listen to bands play or even see a comedy show. Not into alcohol? No problem! They have a selection of teas to choose from. My personal choice is their caramel apple tea.

6. Fit Foodz Cafe

Located in West Boca. This is a great place if you want to eat healthily. You have vegan, vegetarian, paleo, and gluten-free options to choose from!

7. Yaxche Tea Room

Located in East Delray. A great place to sip on some coffee or tea. They are organic and green and a portion of the proceeds goes back to organizations that are doing good things around the world.

8. Pho Boca

Located in West Boca. Get a taste of Vietnamese food if you want something different. Great service and they even serve bubble tea!

9. Burgerim

Located in West Boca. If you're a burger person, this one is for you! You have a variety of burgers to choose from and you can customize it to your liking. Get some burgerim fries when you're there. You won't be disappointed.

10. J & J Fresh Kitchen

Located in East and Central Boca. Healthy food and juices are what you will find here. It's all made to order, too! Juice and Java and Fresh Kitchen have united so you have many locations to choose from.

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7 Ways You Know You Come From A Family Of "Foodies"

My family is food-centric, and that brings us together.

Growing up, it has always been rather apparent that my family lives a rather food-centric lifestyle. There are certainly no complaints here--from a rather early age I acquired an appreciation for food and I've gotten to eat in a number of incredible restaurants.

My family definitely wears the title of "foodies" proudly, although my dad certainly champions this concept. Whenever friends and family are taking a trip to somewhere we've been, my dad's the go-to guy for recommendations. I've taken on this role slightly as well by giving recommendations to non-local friends in the Philadelphia area.

Growing up in a family of foodies comes with a unique appreciation for food as not only sustenance but as a way of bringing people together. So, here are some of the characteristics that make foody families so unique:

1. Vacations aren't planned around the sights you see, but rather the restaurants you eat in.

Anytime anyone asks me where to eat, I'm flattered. Apparently, my reputation precedes me. Not only am I well-versed in Yelp when I don't know an area, but when I do know the area I always have favorites. When I am asked for recommendations, however, I have a tendency to go a little overboard and send far more than the circumstance warrants.

4. Your camera roll is filled with food pictures.

Birthdays. College acceptances. Reuniting with old friends. No matter the occasion, the best way to celebrate is with good food.

6. Meals are a form of stress-relief.

This picture was taken the day I finally decided where to go to college--a decision that had bee plaguing me for months. Nothing helped cure the stress of that decision better than a good meal.

7. Food brings your family together.

With crazy schedules to coordinate, meals are one of the times my family gets to get together and catch up on everything. Growing up, we always had family dinners almost every night (when schedules allowed), and we've continued this into college as often as we are able. Having a family who values food, we see it as a time to connect with one another.

Cover Image Credit: Emily Scheuring

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