The chai in Mumbai probably wakes up earlier than the city. With its first local train starting at 3:20 am, the chaiwallahs of Mumbai begin their day even earlier. With his copper pot at the ready, simmering with ingredients like tea, ginger, cardamom all in steaming milk, a nice cup of “cutting chai” is every Mumbaiaker’s start of the day.
As a city, Mumbai can take a toll on you, because of how fast-paced it is, and a cup of chai is the perfect relief from the toll the city can take on you. Chai in India since ancient times has carried the concept of providing working individuals a much-needed break. However, Mumbai being the fast-paced city that it is, the working crowd of the city does not necessarily have enough time to enjoy a tall hearty cup of chai which led to the birth of cutting chai, which packed the same amount of punch but comes in a smaller glass. This culture of serving chai in smaller glasses is so imbibed in the people of Mumbai that the word “cutting” means chai. So if you happen to visit Mumbai and someone asks if you would like a cutting, just say yes because you are for a delicious cup of steamy goodness packed with flavor.
Now if you are craving something herbal with ginger we would suggest “Pecial”, the locals love it and we highly recommend it. There are some tea vendors or “chaiwallahs” as they are locally called who would prepare tea customized to your preference. Tea leaves and milk is boiled in separate pots allowing you to make requests like Paani kam doodh, where the portion of milk is more compared to water or doodh, or doodh kam pani where milk is added less in comparison to water making it a less creamier cup of chai.
Chai is an essential beverage in our country, and it's safe to say that one will find countless chaiwallah in every nook and corner of our streets. The same goes for the city of Mumbai, at least 2 to 4 chaiwallahs have stalls in the cities streets serving tons of chai drinkers on a daily basis. Among the throngs of chaiwallahs across the city, you are bound to have a few or maybe just one which will be your chai wallah. People start their day with a warm cup of “cutting” and end the day with the same. One can also bond over a cup of chai, whether it's just to talk about the ups and downs in life with friends or just to vent about the one annoying work colleague it's just easier over a cup of chai.
Now, what is chai without a bunch of delicious snacks? People over the country enjoy chai with samosa, pakoras and the evergreen biscuit dipped in the same. Mumbaikers, in particular, enjoy their cutting chai with Bun Maska, a soft bread layered with butter. The charm of bun maska is unparalleled when paired with tea and despite being introduced by Irani cafes Irani years ago still remains a favorite among the people of Mumbai. Another favorite is pairing, though mainly available in Irani and Parsi cafes is the Vada-pav a deep-fried potato dumpling in a bread bun topped with chutney it makes a hell of an impression in each bite. Your Mumbai Chai experience is incomplete without trying these.