Chaaya: The Toxic Relationship We Cannot Let Go Of

Everyone would agree to the fact that tea is an emotion more than a beverage. And maybe, for many, it’s the ultimate solution for every problem.

Have a headache? Drink chaaya

4 pm break? Let’s drink chaaya

I just broke up. Chaaya will solve everything.

My boss is being a bitch. I want chaaya RN.

We have an issue – and it’s a real one.

Chaaya is every Malayali’s favourite beverage. Once you start drinking, there’s no going back. It’s like a marriage – one you’ve committed to it, you need to stay committed. While it’s a go-to energy drink for many, we think our relationship with chaaya is a toxic one. Because every time we have an unresolved situation, chaaya comes up in the equation to act either like a comic reliever or a filler. We’re not saying that it’s a bad thing, though it could be. For instance, if your teacher is shouting at you for not doing your homework, you cannot solve the situation by offering her chaaya.

The culture of drinking tea in India can be attributed to the Britishers. And due to the trickle-down effect, the tea fever spread throughout the country, one state at a time. What’s quite interesting is that over the years, drinking tea has not only become a household tradition, it’s taken uncountable forms. And from what I have gathered, you get the rawest form of tea in Kerala – which is my favourite (and not because I’m biased). You see, in Kerala, most people like their chaaya simple – half a cup of water, half a cup of milk, tea powder, maybe a little sugar. That’s all it takes to make the simplest form of the sweet concoction.

And if you look at it symbolically, chaaya has represented the lives of Keralites. We love living the simple life. Hell, even the richest in the state prefer leading a simpler life. And it’s presented in the chaaya we make and drink every single day. Maybe, that’s why it tops the list of my favourite teas in the country. And what’s more, it brings people together. I’ve seen uncles and aunties have a ball of a time over chaaya. I’ve seen my very own parents have a romantic conversation over chaaya. I’ve had serious discussions with my siblings (which never, ever happens BTW) over chaaya. I’ve seen daily wage workers smile over chaaya. Now that I look back, I realise these moments were brought together because of this sweet, hot drink. The toxic relationship we have with tea that I was talking about earlier makes so much sense now.

Here’s the secret behind making the perfect chaaya. Thanks to amma, now you too can try this tea recipe out.

Sure, toxic is always connected with something bad. But in this case, it’s this toxicity that makes me fall in love with chaaya all over again, every time I take a sip. What’s life without memorable moments, right? If it’s chaaya that’s helping you create these moments, maybe it’s time to appreciate the toxic relationship we have with it. There’s no escaping it. And if there’s one thing that will pass on from one generation to another, it’s this beautiful toxic relationship we have with chaaya.

Aishwarya Gopinath
A foodie at heart, an aspiring novelist, and an enthusiastic writer by nature, I love to dig deep into culture and lifestyle of the place and people around me. I hope to make people cry, laugh, smile, angry, and satisfied with my writing.

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