Tea Time In Karachi

Jan 14 2013 @ 10:23am

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Saba Imtiaz examines Pakistan's passion for tea:

In a country polarized in every possible way – from disparities in wealth and education to differing views on politics and extremism – tea is the great social equalizer. Everyone drinks tea: government officials have an army of ‘tea boys’ at their disposal, investigators work through crime scenes with cups in hand, and journalists substitute tea for a proper meal. There are entire rituals built around it: arranged marriages, traditionally, feature prospective brides serving families cups of tea lain out on a trolley, and cops would never be so tactless as to ask for a straight-out bribe: they instead coyly ask for ‘chai paani’ (tea and water).

It's also "an increasingly pricey habit, given that a kilogram of loose tea costs Rs540 ($5.50)":

According to a 2011 government survey, 2% of Pakistani households’ average monthly expenses are tea, and another 24% is for milk products. Seven percent goes to sugar. That’s a whopping one-third of the total, but no one is pulling the plug on the kettle. Even in flood-ravaged parts of the Punjab province where thousands had lost their houses and possessions, survivors offered cups of tea to visiting reporters.

(Photo: Pakistanis drink tea at a roadside stand during a cold and foggy morning in Lahore on December 31, 2012. By Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images. Hat tip: The Morning News)