Tea Culture in Pakistan: The fondest social activity

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By Mehwish Azam

ISLAMABAD, Feb 16 (APP):Tea is not just a hot beverage in Pakistan, it is rather an obsession and one of the most common drinks offered to guests from family to official gatherings and almost everyone welcomes to take at least a cup of it wholeheartedly.

Offering tea to someone is a token of appreciation and part of the hospitality which is also taken as a metaphor that means “We like and welcome you”. But the consumption of tea is not limited to it as it has become a mandatory part of the daily life of almost every household in the country.

Over the years, the consumption of tea has been incorporated into different cultures around the world although many countries had different kinds of tea leaves with different ways to consume them.

Japan, China, India, Thailand, Britain, Morocco and Russia are some of the countries where tea is consumed in large amount and they had their own specialty in serving them.

The origin of the tea culture in the subcontinent may be traced back to the world’s most renowned civilization of tea-drinkers; The British Empire. By the mid-1700s, it had realized the exorbitant costs of its gentry’s addiction to tea.

One of the most intriguing and exciting questions one can ask from a Pakistani is “Chai piyeain gay aap?” (‘will you have Tea?’). This one question ties the two or more people to get involved in a long conversation of unbreakable bond of “Chai-hood”.

The evidence of the use of tea leaves in this part of the world may be found back in 750 B.C. However, its commercial use did not begin until the markets in subcontinent began flooding with tea around the 1830s.

Pakistani Tea is not quite the same as that of the British. ‘Chai’ in the subcontinent is generally stronger, creamier, sweeter and often served in handle-less glasses at the tea shops.

However, the very culture of tea-drinking in the subcontinent is owed largely due to the influence of the British traders.

Tea is one of the most consumed beverages in Pakistani cuisine. It is considered as one the fondest social activity. If you are bored at office, you and your colleagues want to have a cup of tea together. You want to meet your friends, “Let’s have a Tea Party”. It is like an unsaid social contract among all Pakistanis. If you’re meeting someone and are likely to have a professional or personnel conversation, Chai is the savior you need right there.

However, the best tea leaves are not brewed at home, a well-known fact for all of the Pakistan. They are brewed outside most probably at the truck stops or a ‘dhabas’, makes it a good reason to go out with friends and chill.

It is also a healthy beverage unlike all the soft drinks which come in tin or paper packing. If you had to choose something to drink then choose chai as it has less caffeine than coffee and less sugar than soda. It has theamine that helps reduce anxiety and flavonoids that help protect against heart disease and cancer.

Pakistan produces its own limited tea in Chinkiari (KP) farms; however, it ranks as the third largest importer of tea in the world. According to 2018 report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Pakistan was among the seven countries where per capita consumption of tea has been increased.

Talking to APP, Haji Kareem, the owner of the oldest grocery store in G-6 sector of Islamabad, said the most wanted item of people’s grocery list is Tea.

“Tea has always been among the top essentials food items that people buy for their kitchens and it did not even get effected by the increasing inflation rate as public tends to buy the tea with the same passion and fondness”, he added.

However, given the fact that its Pakistan’s most consumed beverage, health experts warn about its side effects owing to its excessive usage. In this regard, Doctor Fareed Ahmad, who practices in one of the busiest clinics in Islamabad said the tea’s side effects can range from mild to serious and include headache, sleep problems and irregular heartbeat.

He said, “Consuming 4-6 cups of tea daily can also lead to inflammation of food pipe and digestion problems. A healthy amount of tea consumption should not be more than two cups a day.”