Languages blend, borders melt and cultures meet. All over a steaming cup of chai, beverage that bridges an intensely multi-cultural society and apparently does a good job. Who doesn’t love chai 🤔?? If anyone is there than he or she might not be from the planet Earth😜 .
It is my daily routine to take minimum 3 cups of chai in a whole day.😁 If it is rainy season or winter time, then numbers automatically increase. 😁Chai is like medicine for people like me . During college days our group meetings used to end in front of Chai tapri with one by two masala chai . I have been working from last 4 years. Since that time I have changed 15 to 20 jobs , but at my present job location I have tasted all the “chai”s of nearby tapriwalas.😉
In India, this humble agent of social interaction can be found across the country in little roadside shops. These unpretentious outlets often serve the cheapest and the most delicious types of tea. I Have tasted normal tea , masala tea , special Kharap Chai in Guwahati or I can say mostly all available varities of tea nearby me , but never tasted Sulaimani Chai🙄.
But what is Sulaimani Chai ?😥
Sulaimani chai is a Kerala style black tea infused with spices and lemon juice. Traditionally, it is served after a heavy meal as Sulaimani tea is believed to aid in digestion. Brewed to a beautiful shade of amber, Sulaimani chai is an ambrosial tea made without any milk and served with an invigorating dose of lemon. You may often find a mint or basil leaf floating within, infusing it with fresh herby flavours and a heady aroma. Or, in some cases, a sprinkle of ground cardamom and cinnamon may be added.
According to folklore, Sulaimani tea is believed to have connection with Prophet Mohammed. It is said that the Prophet Muhammad himself used to enjoy a well-brewed cup of Sulaimani tea. This tradition was picked up by the Arabian world. That is why, even today, in places like Dubai, Sulaimani tea is extremely popular, and available at almost all tea shops there.
Arabs inherited the tradition of drinking ghava but made slight changes to the ancient recipe.
Later, the beverage was brought to the southern Malabar coast of India by Arab traders who were frequent visitors there. The cultural intermingling that followed led to the addition of local spices and the replacement of dates with sugar. Somewhere along the line, tea was added to the drink.
It was also in Malabar that it started being called Sulaimani — in Arabic, the name Sulaiman means “man of peace”.
Interestingly, people looking for authentic Arabic ghava should head to Barkas, an area in Hyderabad’s old city known for its strong roots in Arab countries. In winter, dozens of outlets and roadside stalls in and around Barkas offer piping hot ghava priced anywhere between Rs.10 and Rs.20 per cup.
Sulaimani chai is often served after heavy meals such as biryani throughout the Malabar region. A great digestive drink, it is also a little-acknowledged but crucial part of marriage menus in the Mappilah Muslim community of Kerala.
Traditional Arabic ghava.
No matter how big or small is the wedding feast, every guest is given stuff to an inch of his or her life, everyone in this community always has a little room left for a Sulaimani. Simmered to the right shade of gold in huge vats, the tea is served in tiny glasses, occasionally with a few strands of saffron.
So integral is the sunset-coloured chai to the rhythm of life in Kerala that it finds several mentions in the state’s cultural landscape. Legendary Malayalam writer Vaikom Muhammad Basheer would carry flasks full of his beloved ‘Sulaimani’ with him wherever he went. There is even a restaurant called Sulaimani 168 in Thrissur!
In 2015, IAS Prashant Nair ,the District Collector of Calicut started the Operation Sulaimani chai ” food programme as an effort to reduce (and hopefully eliminate) poverty in the region. Operation Sulaimani is based on the Western concept of pay-it-forward (Coffee on the Wall and Food on the Wall), where customers in cafes pay for an extra cup of coffee , then, that is given to any underprivileged person who asks for it. Inspired by this, the Kerala Hotels and Restaurants Association came together with the District Administration to ensure that no person in Kozhikode goes hungry. Coupons for food are available at certain distribution outlets; anyone can collect them, and claim their free hot meal from select eateries.
The scheme was very popular, receiving plenty of support from restaurateurs and also the film industry, most notably by the star and script- writer of Ustad Hotel, Dulqar Salman. So popular was it that it has spread from Kozhikode to Balussery, Vadakara and Kuttiady districts.
The deceptively delicious tea has even made its way to the state’s prolific film industry. In the film, Ustad Hotel, for instance, the protagonist (a young aspiring chef straight out of college) uses cups and cups of Sulaimani chai to bond with his grandfather.
In one of the most endearing scenes from the movie, Dulquer sits by the sea with his grandfather and watches the sunrise. Between them sits a kettle of piping hot Sulaimani tea. Moreover, as he watches his grandfather slave over a stove, the protagonist learns to appreciate the smaller things in life.
As the hardworking grandfather says, “Oro Sulaimanilum oru ithiri Mohabbat venam. Adhu Kudikumbol, logam ingene padhukazhai vanu nikenam.” (Every Sulaimani needs a bit of love in it. When you drink it the whole world comes to a standstill.)
Written by Akash Watar.
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