Tea, an integral part of Pakistani culture

A villager is preparing tea at his home in a traditional way of boiling water, milk and tealeaves. (Photo: Jamal Daudpoto)

Tea is used as common beverage almost all over the world but Pakistan is among those countries of the world, which consume very high quantity of tea. The per capita tea consumption has reached to 1kg per annum in the country. Almost all the tea is imported which amounted to worth $301 million in 2010-11.  Precious foreign exchange is spent on this import despite the fact that country can produce tea itself.

According to a report in an Indian daily, Pakistanis consume more tea than Indians. The average per head consumption in Pakistan is 1 kg per year compared to 800 grams in India. The data shows that tea consumption in Pakistan is growing day by day.

Annual tea consumption in Pakistan ranges between 180,000-190,000 tons and the share of smuggled tea through Afghan Transit Trade is over 50 per cent while the rest arrives through legal channels. The tea is imported from 22 countries.

In Pakistan, tea is popular all over the country and has become integral part of local culture. It is one of the most consumed beverages in Pakistani cuisine. The local name for tea in Urdu language is ‘Chai’.
   
The green tea known as ‘Qahwa’ has been an ancient tradition in Pakistan for thousands of years, however black tea was originally introduced and popularized during the colonial British era in South Asia.

Tea is usually consumed at breakfast, during lunch breaks at the workplace, and in the evening at home. Evening tea may be consumed with biscuits or cake, depending on the amount of time one has. Guests are typically offered a choice between tea and soft drinks. It is common practice for homeowners to offer tea breaks to hired labor, and sometimes even provide them with tea during the breaks. Tea offered to labor is typically strong. High teas are common at hotels and restaurants, and are usually buffet-style meals with light snacks.

Tea making techniques vary from home to home, and person to person, but tea is typically made from loose tea leaves and steeped for a couple of minutes before serving. 

The tea bags are used often in offices but since the people of Pakistan are fond of having tea boiled thoroughly with fresh milk, thousands of teashops could be found across the country near offices, residential areas, commercial centers and roadsides, providing opportunities of self-employment and jobs to a large number of people.

Powder milk is not used at such teashops and the fresh milk is bought from nearby villages at highways and milk suppliers in the cities and towns.

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