Chai is great!

Chai wallah in Kolkata

You know how they are, tea drinkers – they can be obsessive. They save a special teapot for a particular tea, they infuse some teas for exactly three minutes and 45 seconds in water at 85°C, others for just two minutes in water at a maximum temperature of 60°C.

So this photo I took in Kolkata makes me smile. Firstly, because I really enjoy drinking chai when I’m in India. Secondly, because all the tea-drinker’s principles have gone out of the window here. This chai wallah boils up his water, puts milk in his tea, adds a load of spices and works in basic conditions, seated on a scrap of cardboard placed on the pavement, without fanfare. And that’s what tea is about, too: simply made, with care, and an absolutely delicious drink in a cup. Chai is great!

Posted in Country : India by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : ,

Unfired clay cups of Kolkata


In Kolkata, where the heat is stupefying for a good part of the year, tea is drunk boiling hot. It is consumed in the street, by a stall, where it is often served in an unfired clay cup which is then thrown to the ground. The clay breaks on the pavement, and when the rain comes it turns to mud.

Posted in Country : India by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : ,

In Kolkata, this kid survives by collecting rubbish

A kid comes up to me as I walk through Kolkata. He asks me to take his photo. He lives on the street, surviving by collecting rubbish which he sells on for next to nothing. I agree to take his picture and suggest he smiles, and above all removes the plastic covering his face. He doesn’t. He stares intently into the lens. And sniffs the glue in his bag at the same time, incapable of stopping.

Posted in Country : India by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : ,

A friendly atmosphere at the public tap

Water is quite scarce in Kolkata and people congregate at the public tap to wash their laundry or themselves. There is a friendly atmosphere among the neighbours.

You can see that people still protect their modesty, even though they wash in the street. The man in the foreground getting changed beneath his towel reminds me of the contortions we go through back in this country, after a swim in the sea, as we try to put our underwear back on with one hand.

Here, it is like being at the beach. But without the sea.

Posted in Country : India by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : ,

In Kolkata, you throw your teacup after use

Back to Kolkata. In this city, as in many Indian cities, people drink tea everywhere, especially in the street. There are many tea shops, where you drink the chai standing, or perched on the end of the single wooden bench on the pavement outside. In the tea shops, tea is generally served in freshly fired clay cups, which are very porous. When you have finished drinking, you throw your cup to the ground, and it breaks. As the day goes on, a little heap of broken cups gradually forms.

Posted in Country : India by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , , , ,

The author

François-Xavier Delmas is a passionate globetrotter. He’s been touring the world’s tea plantations for more than 20 years in search of the finest teas. As the founder of Le Palais des Thés, he believes that travelling is all about discovering world cultures. From Darjeeling to Shizuoka, from Taiwan to the Golden Triangle, he invites you to follow his trips as well as share his experiences and emotions.

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