Whether it’s, “Ek garam chai ki piyali ho” or “Isliye mummy ne meri tumhein chai pe bulaya hai”, chai has featured in countless Bollywood songs till date. Why shouldn’t it, after all it is an indispensable part of our lives right? The Gen-Z is definitely a coffee generation, so much so that they can’t get up without their first cup in the morning. Back in the day, chai was the real craze. From being a wakeup call in the morning to retiring after a long day at work, a cup of tea could put all the stress to rest. If you had guests over, the first instinct would be chai and biscuits. Tea shops were the common hang-out spot. 

Little did we know that this practice is so widespread that it would become a tradition. Masala tea is undoubtedly a popular version that everyone loves slurping. However, did you know that there are a host of traditional teas across India, say, Kashmir’s Kahwa and Noon Chai which continue to hold the essence of the place. One such kind is the Irani Chai. 

The Iran in Irani Chai

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Well, it isn’t such a hard guess when it comes to tracing the etymology of Irani Chai. In the bounds of history, Irani Chai was brought to India by the Persians during the 19th century. The immigrants entered the country through Bombay, in search of work and a better life. With them, travelled the Irani Chai and the concept of Irani cafes. The café culture that was once predominant, has now shrunk. Wait a second, the story doesn’t end here. 

The Hyderabad in Irani Chai 

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The Persian settlers then moved to Hyderabad and established the cafes there. This movement marked the evolution of tea traditions in the Old City that have been kept alive to this day. A cup of Irani chai resulted in the onslaught of numerous bakeries and tea houses. People would flock the small shops of Hyderabad and Secundarabad from early morning and you could smell the sweet aroma of brewed chai and freshly baked biscuits. 

Specialty of Irani Chai 

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Now you may ask, what makes the Irani Chai so different from the rest? Under the reign of Prince Mir Osman Ali Khan, the Nizams were intrigued by the Iranian way of making chai and adapted it for their own sultanate. The trick lies in the boiling. So tea leaves are put on dum, in water, separately and the boiled milk is in a different container. To prepare a cup, milk is poured first and then the tea leaves infused water is added. Copper containers are generally used in the preparation of this tea. The creamy and milky flavour owes itself to this special technique and addition of mawa or khoya. 

Priced at a nominal INR 15-20, a traditional bakery would serve it to you in a white ceramic cup with a saucer. A hot cup of Irani Chai generally arrives with a side of Osmania biscuits, luqmi and a variety of biscuits to choose from. 

Sipping a cup of Irani chai at a small tea shop in Hyderabad, no one would ever imagine that what they’re passing down to their coming generations is a huge slice of history, replete with taste and tales.