The Story of Bombay Chai

The Story of Bombay Chai

Jun 08 , 2022


The story begins with Charles II, who in 1662 licensed the transfer of Bombay from the Portuguese to The East India Company.

Under the leadership of Gerald Aungier, 2nd Governor of Bombay, and later President of the East India Company in 1669, their headquarters moved from Surat to Bombay, setting a course where seven small islands would grow to be one of the world’s largest modern cities.

Prior to British arrival, many locals in India drank an ayurvedic brew known as ‘kadha’, boiled water with a melange of fragrant spices including cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg.

Consumed in homes across India for generations, it was a remedy for coughs, colds and fever. The British however, drank tea or ‘tê’ (from Min-Chinese) with milk. The locals began adding tea leaves, milk, honey and sugar to their ‘kadha’, creating Bombay's first Chai. Chaiwalas sprung up across Bombay, selling the spicy delight to locals and world-weary travellers who needed respite from the heat.

Centuries passed, word spread and today, spicy chai has become one of the world’s best loved teas, with varieties popping up as far away as the United States. Yet the recipe has never changed very much, and still evokes the fragrant vibrancy of Bombay.