Serving up chai in a kulhar
The fundamental reason for driving to a certain restaurant in Karama is to get hold of these beautiful, eco-friendly, handmade terracotta vessels called kulhar. Drinking tea there is just an excuse.
Kulhar is a traditional terracotta cup/tumbler—typically unpainted and unglazed—from North India and Pakistan that is meant to be disposable. See, these kulhars are made by firing in a kiln and are almost never reused so they are pretty much sterile and hygienic. There are still several food stalls in the Indian subcontinent that traditionally serve tea (and even lassi, a yummy yogurt-based drink) in kulhars.
The small table at the restaurant quickly fills up with earthen vessels containing piping hot tea, for the eight of us, to be exact. Everyone patiently waits as I line up the cups and prepare to take pictures; they know the drill when I’m around. Afterwards we place all the vessels carefully into a disposable bag for me to take home. “We’ll only drink tea from these cups whenever we visit your place,” my sisters announce. Needless to say, the waiter returns to clean an empty table when we leave the restaurant.
My excitement wanes a bit when I realize, upon reaching home, that I have to wash all these cups! Would they soften and melt if I scrub them with soap and water? I wonder. The first time I washed these cups I was extra cautious, afraid I might break them. But guess what? These cups are tough and durable! I scrub them thoroughly with a light scrubbing pad and they do not complain at all. Oh, and since they’re porous, I learn that these terracotta cups should be washed with warm water and baking soda, not soap.
Masood refuses to drink tea in our regular tea cups since these beauties made their way into our home. I think what he likes best is that the tea is suffused with the earthy aroma from the cups. What I like best is the fact that my earthenware collection is slowly increasing, with each item having a memory and story to tell.
Do you have or use an earthenware in your home?