Did the British hook the Indians on tea?

tea in India

An espresso-sized shot of tea is on offer every 30 minutes in northern India. Photo by Alamy

11th November 2010, The Times

Three cheers for chai: given all the food pleasures that India has given us, it’s only fair we reciprocate with tea

It’s you British who got us addicted to it,” said my Rajasthani friend Shukla, as he downed what must have been his tenth cup of tea of the day. I’ve never seen so much tea-drinking as there is in northern India: there seems to be an espresso-sized shot on offer every 30 minutes or so. Even in the shacks of the impoverished farmers we were there to interview, a tray of perfectly brewed little cups of strong, sweet tea flavoured with a little ginger arrived as soon as we sat down. (So unlike a visit in Edinburgh, where the classic greeting is “You’ll have had your tea, then?”) The Rajasthanis do make very good tea — though heavy on the sugar — and we could learn from them. I got a lesson at the kerbside stall of Mrs Morbadi, a chai-wallah in the city of Jaipur. The key thing is that she boils the tea, rather than just putting boiling water on the tea — and making tea with water that really is near boiling point is crucial, something that a lot of European cultures ought to learn. French hoteliers: you can’t make decent tea with semi-hot water from a Thermos, OK?

Read the rest of the piece here at Times Online

Food, famine and climate change: India’s scorched earth

Farmer's widow Sugali Nagamma, 41, with her daughter Devi, 18. Her husband committed suicide three months ago

11th October 2009 The Observer

Suicide is the latest epidemic among farming communities as climate change parches the heart of India, destroying agriculture and plunging the poorest families into crippling debt.

In Andhra Pradesh, everyone we met had lost faith in the weather. “It is,” said one woman, a groundnut farmer and a mother of five, “like a bad husband. You cannot understand his behaviour.” Across the state and much of India the July monsoon had gone missing: it finally turned up 45 days late, and inadequate. “Scanty rain,” we were told. “Maybe just five minutes one day. Raining on one field but not the next.” No one had much idea why this had happened, and not many have heard the term “climate change“. What they do know is that it is getting hotter, and that you can’t rely on the rains any more.

By the end of September, when we arrived, a drought had been officially declared in Andhra Pradesh. Food prices were rising – rice up 20%, sugar 45%, most vegetables by even more. In Anantapur, the driest district of this dry state in the centre of the subcontinent, the farming families – some of the poorest people in India – were in crisis. Adults were going without meals to save money, children were being taken out of school, the older ones sent off to the city of Bangalore to look for work. The farmers were selling animals, registering for the government’s rural employment scheme, doing anything they could to stave off the moneylenders. Then early this month, massive storms brought floods that drove nearly half a million people in Andhra Pradesh from their homes.

Read on at the Guardian website