Globalisation brings us some truly great developments – like being able to pick up a chai latte from Renmark Maccas early on a Thursday morning.

I visited India for three months in 2002 – my husband lived there for 18 months and the rest of his family were there for up to 10 years – and still remember the cries of hawkers on the trains: CHHAAAAAIIII, CHAAAAIIII, OMALET, OMALET (sic). At that time I had never come across chai – now it is everywhere.

It’s a bit like dukkah, which is a bit like George’s pesto rant in The Busboy episode of Seinfeld:

(Jerry, George, and Elaine are all eating at an Italian restaurant. George hasn’t eaten anything)

ELAINE: Do you want some of mine?

JERRY: Take some of mine.

GEORGE: Why do I get pesto? Why do I think I’ll like it? I keep trying to like it, like I have to like it.

JERRY: Who said you have to like it?

GEORGE: Everybody likes pesto. You walk into a restaurant, that’s all you hear – pesto, pesto, pesto.

JERRY: I don’t like pesto.

GEORGE: Where was pesto 10 years ago?

I know where chai was 10 years ago – in the thermos of thousands of Indians yelling CHAAIIII, CHAIIII as they travelled around the sub-continent. But I’m sure glad it’s here now – even if it passes only the most minimal of resemblances to its authentic spicy cousin.


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