What is a Chai Wallah?
A decade ago, chai was barely known to Western consumers. Today, millions order chai lattes at coffee shops, and ready-made mixes line the shelves of supermarkets. But in India, chai is more than a trend. It is an integral part of the rhythm of life, from the deserts of Rajasthan to the seaside megacity of Mumbai to the call centers and factories driving India’s economic rise — a constant, unifying presence in a profoundly diverse country. And behind each cup of Indian chai, whether served in a flimsy plastic cup, earthenware clay pot or silver-plated kettle, is a chai wallah. The same way New York cab drivers might be able to tell the story of the city through their interactions with customers, chai wallahs can tell the story of India in all its complexity.
Zach and Resham are collecting stories of chai wallahs from India’s many distinct regions, highlighting the variations in chai culture and the role chai wallahs play in different communities. By documenting how chai is woven into the daily fabric of India, they seek to depict a culture that epitomizes India’s diversity and unity.
Feel free to reach out with any questions, comments or inquiries to Resham and Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org.