Beverages Of India
India is vast and with a varied topography and extreme climatic conditions. Adhering to these, various drinks are formulated and drunk throughout the country. Mostly the drinks which the Indians relish are traditionally full of natural ingredients and flavours. Some of them sour, some sweet, some with the consistency of water, some having a frothy milky texture. Many of them help in digestion and are famous as soothers. Some natural juices are fermented naturally and get transformed into alcoholic beverages.
These beverages are mostly home-made and are also found on the streets to satisfy the quench of the Indians.
Most famous beverage of Indians is however, the Masala Chai! Now famous all over the world; (Starbucks sells it as Chai Tea Latte!) this beverage, though originated out of India, has been developed and famed inside India. The Masala Chai, is a wonderful concoction of water, milk, sugar, tea dust and some natural ingredients like ginger and cardamom to name a few. This concoction of tea has gained popularity all over India, so much so that it has become an addiction! It is easily available in almost all the households and also on the roadside. Perfectly safe to drink, as the water and milk are boiled together to get a peculiar consistency, eliminating all the harmful bacteria!!
A warm cup of Masala Chai, in the mornings is a must for most of the Indians.
Another beverage, which is not Indian, but has essentially become Indian is the coffee. Famous in the southern states, the Filter Coffee, is served in special steel vessels with a lot of froth.
Other local drink is the Nimbu Paani or Shikanji, which is the humble lemon juice. Lime juice with lots of water, sugar syrup and the tangy rock salt with mint leaves is one of the most soothing drinks all over India to get over the warm weather. In fact India has many drinks which can be labelled as summer drinks. The people, as well as the royalties would innovate some drinks which would give them respite from the heat. Aam Panna is one such drink made out baked raw mango pulp, but served only in summers. Some others which are unique only to India are the Khus (Vetiver) Sherbet and the Rose Sherbet. Made real ingredients, this sherbets or juices are naturally soothing.
Curd, which is fermented milk, is widely used all across India, and is known to be having anti-inflammatory qualities, thus soothing the intestines. This pro-biotic milk product is added to various drinks to give it a sour taste. But mainly the Buttermilk, locally known as Chhaas, Taak, Moar etc is the drink version of curd in the southern and the western parts of India. Normally buttermilk is with watery consistency with some salt, black pepper, ginger and cumin seeds added to it. The thicker version of the same is famously known as the Lassi. Lassi is essentially sweet and preferred in the northern parts of India.
Thandai is another special drink found in North India, which is made from rose petals and many dry fruits along with fennel seeds. This is added to cold milk with sugar syrup to enhance its natural taste, is also a mild heat buster!
The climate in the northern and north eastern part of India can get really cold during winters. A special concoction by the Kashmir people known as the Kahwa is relished in the mountain areas. A kind of tea boiled and blended with local dry fruits and laced with saffron, gives Kahwa a distinct taste and makes it special.
The western states and the central India have their own beverages owing to the hot weather conditions, prevailing for a longer duration of the year. Sugar cane is commonly grown in the state of Maharashtra, hence the juice of sugar cane is very famous and you can see small outlets selling Usacha Ras on the roads and pavements. It is of course found in the northern states as well.
Another famous fruit is the Palm fruit. The juice of the fruit is relished, especially on the western ghats. This Palm nectar, popularly known as the Neera, is a sweet translucent drink full of natural vitamins and minerals apart from having the soothing quality. But the drink should not be had after noon as it gets fermented to quickly to form Toddy. While the neera soothes you, the Toddy intoxicates you!
A very unique fruit, to the western Ghats is the Kokum. Looks very much like the plum fruit, sun dried Kokum is used in India cooking while juice is extracted from the raw fruit. This beautiful blood red juice has medicinal properties. It is anti-allergic and anti-acidic as well. The Kokum Sherbet is a household name in this part of India. At times coconut milk is added to the juice to make the Solkadhi, a very typical drink after having spicy and heavy food.
While one goes down south of India, many a different beverage are found. The Feni of Goa is one such unique product. Feni is the fermented juice of cashew nut fruits. While Goa is famous for making home-made wines, recipes which are passed on through generations, Feni is something very unique, and found in Goa alone.
Apart from Coffee and the variants of buttermilk, the south Indians drink ample of Coconut water which not only quenches your thirst but is full of minerals and calcium and considered to be very healthy. Koozhu, a watery porridge, made out of various grains is also quite common in the South of India. It is not only a heat buster, but is also considered as a filling supplement for the morning workers.
Pannakam, is one more traditional drink relished here. Made out of tamarind and lemon juice with jaggery and tempered with curry leaves and mustard seeds. This drink too is cooling and is known by different names in different parts.
Toddy made out of Coconut and Palm trees is also famous all over the southern states. While the eastern states believe more in milk and milk products, the Sattu, made of various grains is a meal in itself. Sattu can be had salty or sweet. An early morning Sattu drink acts very much like the Koozhu porridge of the south Indians.
Tea gardens are a common site in the north eastern states of India. The Darjeeling and the Assam tea are famous the world over. The people living in these states prefer the black tea made of pure tea leaves over the Masal Chai had all over India.
Rice wines are famous in India especially among the tribal people. The names may be different, like Kyat in Manipur, Chaang in Sikkim, Sonti in Jharkhand and so on.
So when in India, there is no dearth of drinks to get high on!