06 Dec 2007


Paan* and Chai* are part of the social fabric of India.  They are the coffee and donuts of America and are enjoyed by all whether rich or poor, high caste or low.

 An ethnic Indian chew, Paan is basically a betel leaf wrapped around a variety of ingredients.  Paan shops are located in railway stations, outside theaters, bus stops, on the street, and in every nook and corner of cities, towns, and villages.   There are many styles of Paan but the one made with betel* leaf is more popular since it is believed to help in the digestion of the rich curried foods.   As such, it is usually served at the end of an Indian meal.  Acting as a mouth freshener, it turns the mouth red.  Most varieties of Paan are to be chewed but not swallowed. 

 Paan sellers have their own special recipes and ingredients as well as method of preparation.  As the final package is completed, it is clearly a work of art prepared by an artesian who has a special place in Indian society.

 Chai, like that of Paan, is ever-present all through India.  The roadside stand is the most common place to purchase the refreshing drink.  Sometimes Chai is available next to a stand that offers fresh squeezed sugar cane juice.  Chai is generally made up of black tea, creamy milk, a sweetener, and a combination of various spices. The most common spices are cardamom, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and pepper although their use varies from region to region in India.  The brewing of this popular drink is an art.  Many like to show off their talents as they skillfully mix the boiled milk and tea to obtain a creamy flavorful mixture.  A drink that not only tastes good but also acts as a natural digestive aid, Chai produces a warm soothing effect giving a wonderful sense of well-being.  Chai from India is becoming an increasingly popular drink all over the world.  It is usually safe for the tourist to drink since the ingredients are pasteurized through the boiling process.

 When you visit India, come and enjoy the people, the food   and, of course, Paan and Chai.


Paan   Pahn

Chai   Ch-eye

Betel   BEE-tul

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