Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi; Tea is both an emotion and an addiction

It’s International Tea Day on May 21, and chef Harpal Singh Sokhi is taking the moment to express his love for the hot beverage. He believes tea is a great conversation starter, and he is addicted to tea so much that he collects it during his travels in and outside India.

“I enjoy different types of tea and consider myself a tea lover. When I travel, I collect a variety of teas: chamomile tea, English breakfast, Earl Grey, different fruit-flavored teas, various blends, premium green tea leaves, and white tea leaves. I have quite a collection of teas, which I keep in my kitchen. Sometimes I get scolded for bringing home so much tea because it eventually gets thrown away, but I have a passion for collecting them, so I keep adding to my collection.”

“And in India, you can find different types of tea based on regions, like Assam tea, Darjeeling tea, and Mumbai’s cutting chai, which has its own unique strong flavor. Interestingly, in Mumbai, street vendors usually use CTC (crush, tear, curl) tea, which seems to have a magic touch, making all the chai taste the same. Mumbai’s cutting chai is quite addictive; people have a strong desire to drink it, especially during summers when it’s believed to help beat the heat. In some places, like Parsi colonies such as Behram Baug, they make lemon grass tea, which has a fantastic flavor and is quite enjoyable to drink,” he added.

He also shared that he and his friends always have a good talk over a cup of tea, and they sometimes meet at a tapri to talk.

“Tea is both an emotion and an addiction. It has a unique way of sparking conversations, and for many, it’s a true addiction. When four friends meet, it’s almost a given that they’ll sit down for a cup of tea together. It’s like an excuse to indulge in a cup of chai. I’m also one of those who love tea, and when I meet my friends, we often gather at a “tapri” in Mumbai, as locals call it. We sit there, drink chai, and chat away,” he said.

He also remembered a small tea stall from Dehradun, where he became a regular and enjoyed having as much as three cups of tea.

“When I recently opened my restaurant in Dehradun; we were living in a villa up the hill. There was a tea stall run by Mishraji at the bottom, and every morning in December or January, I would sit there, enjoying Mishraji’s excellent chai. I would typically have 3–4 cups of chai and butter toast before heading back to our villa. Even now, whenever I visit Dehradun, I make sure to stop by Mishraji’s stall for a cup of his delicious chai.”

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