About 2700 years ago, Siddhartha Gautama sat under a pipal tree – now known as the Bodhi tree – in Bodh Gaya, attained enlightenment and became the Buddha. Today, under another pipal a hundred yards from the Bodhi tree, Buddhist monks sit cross-legged. They are not meditating; they have all day for that. They are here to sip tea at Manesh’s chai stand.
It was in Buddhist monasteries in China that tea first became a popular drink. For centuries, monks have consumed tea to help them concentrate on their meditation and stave off sleep. So it is no surprise that today monks throughout India flock to chai stands.
“We’re only supposed to eat two times a day, so tea really helps sustain me,” said Kunga Thukjay, a Tibetan monk raised in India. “I love the Indian tea with all the ginger and cardamom,” he said as he sipped Manesh’s milky brew – much better in his opinion than the traditional Tibetan tea served with salted yak butter.