Where choi becomes chai: Tea and the Af/Pak Border

Among the many differences that a traveller would notice upon passing through the Bolan or Khyber Pass would be the national drink. Afghan choi (Farsi چای) is a clear and generally unsweetened green or black tea, often sipped from a transparent glass without a handle. It might be served with roasted chickpeas, raisins, or nuql – sugared almonds.

On the other side of the border, Pakistani chai (Urdu چائےis rich, milky and sweet. Unlike an English breakfast tea served with a spoon of sugar and a splash of milk, chai is a full-bodied and robust brew where the tea is boiled with a large amount of milk. Often served in small teacups with saucers, this delicious drink makes the perfect accompaniment to spicy pakoras or samosas.


If you have not yet had the privilege of tasting chai, this recipe is for you!


1 and 1/4 cups water

– 2 teaspoons of loose leaf black tea (or 2 teabags)

– 1 cup milk

–  2-4 tsp sugar


Bring the water to a rolling boil in a small saucepan. Add the tea and simmer on a low heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the milk and turn the heat back up, constantly supervising to ensure milk doesn’t boil over. Use a ladle to lift and pour tea back into the saucepan over and over. This makes the chai frothy and develops its rich flavour. Once it begins to boil up, the chai is ready to serve. Pour and sweeten to taste. Enjoy!


3 thoughts on “Where choi becomes chai: Tea and the Af/Pak Border

  1. Enjoyed this. Few things are more part of a culture than the local drink. Bound with rules of hospitality and often an important source of nutrition, a country’s drink speaks directly to foreigners.

    Liked by 3 people

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