I love my chai (tea)

A blog on Japan and we are discussing tea..strange??
I know it is…but this is one of the few aspects of living and working in Japan that I struggled the most with..ha ha!!..Being a true Indian, my relationship with tea has been a long and emotional one..:) Tea has been my best friend…smiling at me when I wake up in the morning, helping me stay awake at nights during exam time, rejuvenating me when I feel exhausted…sharing my happiness when I am chit chatting or having fun with friends, giving me company when I am feeling lonely, providing warmth on a cold and rainy day.and the list goes on.now, aren’t all those characteristics of a good friend ?Yes, indeed!

You can very well imagine my plight when I realized during my very first visit to Japan, that my dearest friend, my Chai was nowhere to be found. (Chai** is Hindi for Indian milk tea). All the cafes and restaurants served only coffee, which was mostly bitter and very different from the concept of coffee in India, where, like tea, coffee is also had with a lot of milk and sugar in it. Starbucks and Excelsior were not popular names back then in 1999, that too in a small city of Utsumomiya. (Starbucks entered the Japanese market only in 1996 and was yet to establish its popularity)

how about a cup of heavenly Chai this Sunday afternoon?So the very first thing I did after settling down was to get an electric thermos and make my own. I remember having my first tea in Japan after almost two weeks after landing here and it tasted like never before.

Things are quite different now, with Starbucks, Doutour, Excelsior, etc becoming household names and serving different types of coffee and tea (milk tea as well). For me, It is much easier now to grab a cup of (milk) coffee or tea during long work hours or while traveling than it was back then. Excelsior is my favorite, though Doutor is the best if you want to have a cup of good milk tea. The Chai latte at Starbucks is not at all like how tea should be…it just ain’t my cup of tea (that is totally my from my perspective)

Tea is a popular beverage in Japan too, although mostly it is black tea (Kocha) and of course the Japanese green tea (Ocha***). Other teas like Oolong tea (a type of Chinese tea) and Mugi cha (barley tea) are also quite popular. Like Chai in India, Ocha is an essential part of the Japanese everyday life. In spite of all the popularity that the above mentioned brands enjoy in the daily life of the Japanese, tea continues to have a special place in the Japanese society.
mornig green tea

Green tea, Oolong cha, mugi cha, with their various health benefits, definitely have an upper hand over kocha, coffee or chai. Green tea is low in calories and is a rich source of vitamins C and B2. It helps kills bacteria,has cancer fighting properties, lowers cholesterol, and the list goes on. More and more Japanese are now realizing that and throwing away their ‘new-fashioned’ refreshments in favor of the dear old Japanese tea (and Chinese tea)

The green tea is not limited only to beverages only. There is green tea ice-cream, green tea kit-kat, green tea cakes, and guess what? a green tea hair dye. Dozens of salons in Japan are now using matcha (a variety of Japanese green tea) to dye hair. They feel that matcha improves the quality of the hair and is chemical free and thus beneficial for the hair. Now that is one healthy way of dying hair.

Personally, I am still having a tough time letting go of my beloved chai in favor of the healthy green tea. For us in India tea has a certain “image” and developing a taste for something which is no where near that is not an easy task, but I am trying . And then,having chai once in a while should not hurt…should it?
(Oh yes, I am making sure my one year old son prefers Chinese and Japanese tea over Chai and started giving him mugi cha, which he absolutely loves)

This reminds me – it is time for cup of hot chai and pakodas (Indian version of theJapanese tenmpura) Perfect for a rainy day like today) …Catch you later!!

**Green tea is divided into grades depending on the time of harvest, the portion of the leaf used and the processing method (Matcha, Ryokucha, etc.)
***Chai comes in various flavors such as masala chai, ginger tea, cardamon tea, saunf tea, etc. Ginger tea and Cardamon tea are my personal favorites.


photo by:


1 Comment

  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 23, 2013 at 10:54 pm Reply

    hi cj! Am becoming a fan of ur blogs too! I love Chai and i prefer Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf’s blend..:) have you tried it? Tho i must say, nothing beats the original Chai–was able to enjoy this when I stayed at Neha’s parents’ house in Tokyo…:)

Leave a Reply