Real, Traditional, Authentic Chai Tea
That title represents everything we decry in the marketing of Chai.
If you've been here before, you would have noticed that the words "authentic" and "traditional" are absent from our website or any of our marketing. In contrast, you will find these terms attached to pretty much every other Chai company in Australia, particularly the ones run by white people.
What is “authenticity” when it comes to Chai? To answer that, let’s look at where the inspiration for what we now know as Chai in Australia actually came from.
The "origin story" of pretty much every white-owned Chai business involves a backpacker falling in love with Chai when they went traipsing around India (usually to "find themselves"). They would drop a couple of coins into the hands of a street vendor in exchange for a tiny earthenware cup of sweetly-spiced tea. These street vendors, or chai-wallahs, are an important mainstay of indian culture. For many Indians, a trip to their local chai-wallah for a sip of the freshly-brewed, steaming hot beverage is a daily ritual that provides respite from the bustle, and a sense of comfort and belonging.
For a non-Indian, chai-wallahs and their craft are an exotic marvel, and it makes complete sense for them to want to take this experience, and share their interpretation of it. Sharing their appreciation of a facet of Indian culture is a beautiful and welcome sentiment. However, to claim authenticity over something that is uniquely Indian, when you are not in fact Indian, is a different story altogether. Read our article on Cultural Appropriation for more on this topic.
The fact is simple - Chai sold in Australia by non-Indians is not, and will never be authentic. Authenticity comes from a genuine understanding and lived experience of the culture, not as an onlooker.
Some may argue that their Chai blend is based on a recipe that was taken from an Indian. This therefore makes their Chai authentic, does it not?
Let's look at that question from another perspective. Would you consider a painting made by a white person in the style of Australian Aboriginal art authentic, even if they had learned Aboriginal storytelling techniques from an Elder? The argument does not stand, particularly when you take the History of Chai into account. Moreover, there is absolutely no such thing as a "traditional" recipe for Chai. Every Indian family and every chai-wallah in every state of India has their own recipe based on the spices and tea that is available in their region.
Hence our stance against using terms like "traditional" and "authentic" in relation to our company and our product. In fact, we claim the opposite. There is nothing traditional about our Chai recipe, and it certainly tastes nothing like the masala Chai one might find in the streets of India. You will not find your Eat, Pray, Love moment here.
Chai made by white people is not, and will never be authentic. Sticky Chai is not authentic. Chai concentrates are not traditional. Instant Chai powders can get fucked.
NB: If you don't already know, "Chai" means "Tea". As masala Chai grew in popularity in English-speaking countries, something got lost in translation and people started saying "Chai Tea" when referring to masala Chai. Just because it is commonly accepted, doesn't make it correct. In fact, when you say "Chai Tea", it makes you sound like a moron, because you're really saying "tea tea". This is especially cringeworthy when uttered by a Chai company. If you're going to appropriate our culture, at least do it right.
Images courtesy of Chai Wallahs of India.