One of the hardest things for our uncles and antis give up as they consider veganism is masala chai. They consider it quintessentially Indian, typically Gujarati, and essential for their daily energy and joy. Amman, a vegan Jain studying at UC Berkeley, reminds us, however, that it was the British that served and encouraged Indians to drink milk based chai. Check out this wikipedia description: while the masala part came from a traditional Ayurvedic origin, in keeping with the drinking of tea as an herbal medicine rather than a recreational beverage, the British encouraged the wide scale cultivation of tea in India and promoted it ” in the English mode” with small amounts of added milk and sugar. Vendors added spices and milk, and established it as a popular beverage.
During Jain events, if we need to stick to chai to avoid challenging traditional tastes, let’s use almond milk, soy milk, rice milk or anything but dairy.
But really, let’s not kid ourselves. This is neither a healthy habit, nor a quintessential part of our Indian identity. It’s an addiction that we learned from the British Raj.
Still if Chai is your comfort drink, and if you want to keep drinking it, the cows won’t be hurt if you buy or make a plant milk. You can try Richa’s recipe for vegan chai here.