I took an overnight bus from Delhi and arrived in McLeodganj, in mountainous Himachal Pradesh, on 14 November, around 7:00 a.m. For the next few days I explored the town’s hilly streets and the narrow, winding roads heading out of the main square and into nearby pine forests.
Walking around I saw tea shops and tea stalls everywhere, serving up inexpensive, sweet, milky chai. But these little spots were more than just places to have a cup of tea. They also cooked up savory and spicy Indian fare like rotis and samosas, and served as social venues where locals could mingle and socialize over tea and a snack.
At the Triund Tea Shop, I struck up a conversation with some young Tibetan/Nepali men, one of whom had a cousin in Woodside, Queens, New York. They hurried away after drinking their tea. When I finished mine and tried to settle my bill with the chai walla, he said the guys had already paid it!
The tea shops would deliver tea, in small ceramic mugs or glasses, to nearby businesses and to the many Tibetan street vendors selling clothes and crafts. The diminutive street stalls had no seating, but of course you could drink your tea standing up. Or, you could sit across the street on a bench or friendly boulder, and they would bring you the tea.
So next time you find yourself in India, why not drop by McLeodganj? And while you drink your tea, you can sit back, relax, and admire the views of the majestic Himalayas.