Reviving the Chai Visit Tradition

When I was a kid most of the Indian families we knew had a weekend tradition of the “chai visit”. This wasn’t a party or a high tea, it was a gathering of friends and family where the chai was kind of like a silent guest – enhancing the experience, but not overshadowing the conversation.  And quite often it was a last minute, impromptu gathering. Before cell phones and text messages, on any given Sunday, any given Aunty or Uncle could drop in for a visit.chai visit

Sometimes there would be someone dropping off a wedding card, or a box of sweets to announce the arrival of a new baby, and sometimes they would just be driving by and remember they hadn’t visited for a while – whatever the case, they were always invited in for a cup of chai. It wasn’t uncommon for one of the parents (or teens who could drive) to be dispatched on a samosa and sweets run while the chai was brewing. The best thing was no one was bothered about the messy house, the lack of snack options, or the mismatched cutlery; it was all part of the charm. chai visit

As much as I love a good tea party, and enjoy dressing up and going out for high tea, I miss the simplicity of the chai visit. It was at gatherings like this that most of the girls of my generation perfected our chai making skills. (Yes, in my generation, chai was kind of the domain of the girls, but I’m teaching my son the art too!) We would huddle in the kitchen and watch over the chai while carrying on our own secret conversations – because we were way cooler than all the adults in the living room. 

So what restricts us from the weekend or after-work chai visit? For one I think it’s all the formality of checking our calendars, and new rules of social etiquette (have you noticed how friends will text you now to ask if they can call you?) I also think we have all these expectations for serving and plating things the right way these days. I certainly get a “Martha complex” every time someone is coming over!

To help me keep  my doors open to impromptu chai visits, I try to keep my pantry and freezer stocked with a couple of basic supplies:tea india cardamom chai

A variety of flavoured chais
I’ve shared many times before about how much  I love the cardamom tea bags from Tea India, but they also come in Ginger, and Masala flavours. I always love asking my guests what type of tea flavour they’d like to have.

Some sweets with a long shelf life
You can get some pre-packaged sweets at the Indian store that you can pull out in a pinch. I like to keep some rasmalai in my freezer, and also some desi cookies in the pantry. You just can’t beat cream filled cookies from India with chai!

Frozen cocktail samosas and chutney
For me, nothing goes together like samosas and chai, but I don’t live right next door to a samosa shop (anymore), and I can’t just whip them up at a moment’s notice. The trick with samosas and chutney is that they both freeze really well. 

A few pretty accessories
Next time you are at Homesense or your local thrift store grab a few mix and match pieces to create a fun tea set, or maybe a couple of colourful serving plates. These don’t have to match anything else in your dish collection, or be expensive, they just have to make you smile when you pull them out. 

You can also grab some fun napkins and decorative disposables on your next visit to the Dollar Store. I try to avoid disposable dishes because they are bad for the environment, but every once and a while every mama needs a break from doing the dishes!

I hope this post has inspired you to call a friend for a catch-up over chai this weekend, or maybe you’ll stop by and visit your mom, sister, or BFF? If you are worried about the unannounced visit, maybe you can bring the samosas?

This post is part of a sponsored campaign on behalf of the South Asian Bloggers Network for Tea India and I have received compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.  

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  1. March 4, 2016 / 10:40 am

    I love the visits! I agree, I wish people still do that! Must bring the visits back!

  2. March 5, 2016 / 6:55 pm

    I miss these “Chai visits” from Switzerland here in India. They somehow still kind of exist in my homeland under the term “coffee break” and it is either just running into a friend and going for coffee in a cafe, or making an impromptu call to a friend to catch up and invite them over for a cup.

    The coffee break is an institution in Switzerland and a syndicate right to every employee. And it is not unusual to see even senior citizens who are retire still make a daily unspoken appointment with their friends to meet for a warm cup of something mid morning or late afternoon.

    When I move to India, I found out that my neighbours would be quick to invite me for a cup IF they belonged to the older generation. The people in my generation seem to be too busy for it. Unless the person I ask is a European expat because they somehow long for that small talk and reconnecting with others. But even in Europe my generation is far more formal about it than my parent’s

    I think Whatsapp and texting kind of killed the essence of “Chai visit” to be frank, what is the point of dropping by for an impromptu chat when you can do that in text messages 🙁

    • March 7, 2016 / 3:03 pm

      I hope some of us chai lovers can revive the tradition!

      • March 7, 2016 / 7:39 pm

        I sure hope we can achieve that. I am a firm believer that a cup of tea can fix just about anything even more so in the company of friends and family.

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