Tea, specifically chai, has been called "the drink India can't live without." It's the most popular beverage in the country, the BBC reports, and Indians consume 837,000 tons of it a year. Chai is everywhere from roadside stands to high-end restaurants, and it transcends class levels, too. While chai is the Hindi word for tea, it usually refers to the sweetened spiced milk-tea of India.
It might seem surprising that this hot-weather country drinks a hot beverage year-round, but the tea triggers the body's cooling reflexes and brings your body temperature down.
How to make a proper cup: This recipe is courtesy of Indiaphile. Add 3, 2-inch long pieces of lemongrass to one cup of water and bring to a boil. Add 2 cups milk, sugar to taste and 1/2 teaspoon chai masala (add more of this for stronger chai). Bring to a boil, strain and serve hot.
If you like, you can try adding mint leaves, ginger, saffron, orange zest, basil, black pepper, carom seeds or star anise.
No fancy ceremonial serving here, as busy pedestrians or train commuters often grab a to-go cup from street vendors. But street vendors do have some cool tricks for dividing the tea between cups and cooling it in the process.