Drinking Chai the Kolkata Way – Where Clay Cups are the Paper Cups

By Mark Wiens 17 Comments
Stacks of clay cups waiting to be ordered
Stacks of clay cups waiting to be ordered

Kolkata (Calcutta), literally translates to: “The City of Joy!”

And while not everything about visiting Kolkata is smooth and easy (it’s crowded and chaotic), there are some really cool joys within the city.

One of those ever-present joys in Kolkata is the chai.

It’s not just any chai, it’s piping hot bubbling chai that’s nearly always served in never before used clay cups; That’s right, clay cups are the paper cups in Kolkata!

Throughout much of North India, I enjoyed many things served in clay bowls and cups (especially things like yoghurt lassi and desserts), but throughout my India trip, no other city used clay cups as frequently as Kolkata did.

Two freshly poured cups of chai!
Two freshly poured cups of chai!

Walk up to any street side vendor in Kolkata, order a cup of chai, and in seconds you’ll be poured a fresh one, served in a clay cup.

It was winter when I visited, so the hot chai was soothing and comforting to nurse down. In my opinion, one of the best things to do in Kolkata after you have a belly full of Kolkata street food, is to sit on a chaotic street and sip an overflowing cup of chai from a clay cup.

Drinking chai the Kolkata way!
Drinking chai the Kolkata way!

Now you might think that they bump up the price due to the fancy clay cups, but that’s hardly the case. A cup of chai served in a clay cup will set you back just 4 – 6 Rupees ($0.07 – $0.11), depending on what size you choose.

At first you’ll probably want to save the cup, like I did, but after a few days in Kolkata you’ll realize that they are so common (and not very strong) and so you probably won’t bother anymore.

After you’re done sipping, you simply toss your clay cup on the side of the street, the way everyone does.

Here’s a quick video of drinking chai in Kolakta. Enjoy!

17 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • flip

    8 years ago

    This post mad eme miss India. I love Chai, I find it very delicious and very cheap too. I’ve also met a lot of local who invited me for chain in their houses when I was in India. Chai seems to help connect people for some reason 😉

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Hey Flip, glad to hear you love it too. Yah, as well as being delicious, it’s a great social talking beverage!

  • Jimmy

    8 years ago

    Bottlehouse brand has awesome chi tea with soy
    Milk in most “cold drink” & or dairy section of grocery stores….
    It’s not” strong chai” but for “soy” ..not “milk”
    It’s smouth! clay pots… As papper cups…
    so different! The other stuff u where eating
    Was in recycled news papper… so interesting
    Then USA 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Hey Jimmy, cool thanks for the suggestion. Yah, it’s so interesting to see different packaging in India!

  • Mike

    8 years ago

    I remember being impressed by drinking my chai from a clay pot there and have one of my best Indian chai stall photos from that city. It’s been a while but I think that I remember the chai vendor telling me that they recycle the pots.

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Hey Mike, great, glad you remember the good chai in Kolkata too and the clay pots!

  • Arti

    8 years ago

    Ah! They are called Kulhad’s! They are primarily used to reduce the menace caused by plastic cups. A large size is also available in which you can get Lassi 🙂

  • Maria

    8 years ago

    Chai can’t believe it! *laugh* Corny I know but I couldn’t resist.
    So very cool about the clay.
    I read a lot of blogs but haven’t seen anyone cover this yet. Kudos Mark!

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Cool, thanks a lot Maria. I really enjoy drinking chai from these clay cups!

  • Ulmne

    8 years ago

    Oh man! Chai is one of things that I miss the most from India. I’ve tried to make chai at home but I haven’t been able to get the same awesome flavour.
    Chai and Lassi are definitely worth a trip to India

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Hey Ulmne, yes I agree, to fine beverages!

    • Toddy

      6 years ago

      Oh you brought my childhood back. I used to love drinking chai on the train especially. We used to travel overnight from Kolkata to Puri, for a beach holiday. I loved how the tracks had the clay chai pots on them. I was so sad when they started using glasses which you gave back. Glad to see the clay pots are back. Also there is nothing as good as proper mishti doi (sweet yoghurt) set in a clay dish.

      • Mark Wiens

        6 years ago

        Hi Toddy, great to hear from you, thank you for sharing. Mm, the mishti doi sounds delicious too, I’ll remember that for next time.