I am at the hanger today and it is 10:00am. That means it is chai time. This is time where everyone leaves whatever work they are doing to come together in a common area to chit chat while drinking chai.
In Kenya chai time can occur at multiple intervals throughout the day. To name a few, it can occur with breakfast, early afternoon break, late afternoon break, and after dinner. I have been told that boarding schools have a break for chai time, important business meetings take place over chai and friends hang out while drinking a cup of chai. In other words, in Kenya, anytime that people are brought together can be chai time. And, chai time can be what brings people together. But specifically in the AIM hanger “chai time” occurs at 10am and again at 3pm.
Kenya chai has its own uniqueness. It is made by boiling nearly equal parts of water and milk together and then brewing traditional black tea leaves in the liquid. If you are in a Kenyan home it is served after a few minutes of brewing with a bowl of sugar on the side. In a work place like the hanger the sugar is put directly into the boiling chai. The milkier and sweeter the better! This is Kenya’s signature drink.
Interestingly, Kenya’s culture is similar to the United States in that it tends to embrace many different cultures to create their own. Chai time is a perfect example of this. Tea time is borrowed from the British, but the style of tea is borrowed from India.
Chai time has been happening at the AIM hanger as long as anyone can remember. It is such an important facet that it is Monica’s main job to brew the chai. She makes this along with mandazi (Kenyan doughnut) chapati (flatbread) and hardboiled eggs. She serves the chai piping hot and you feel the warmth as you pour it out into a mug. It is easy to burn your tongue if you are impatient enough not to let it cool.
When it comes to the social part of chai time I am completely onboard. However, when it comes to the chai itself I have to tell you that I don’t care for the drink. I have given it a try on several occasions. In the picture at the top I am giving it yet another try because I do want to like it. However, over the past four weeks there have been times I have had to quietly tell someone I don’t care for the chai. Their response has been a startled look and a shake of their head hardly believing it. Fortunately, Terry, who never liked milk or sugar in his hot tea, has developed a taste for chai and has finished off a couple of my cups to help me save face.
I pray you get a chance to sit down today and enjoy a cup of chai, coffee, cocoa or whatever your hot drink of choice is. As you sip do as the Kenyans, let it be a time of quiet reflection, a time of embracing a new friendship or a time of strengthening an old one.
Until next letter,
P.S. I do like the coffee here. It just isn’t the popular hot drink of choice for the locals.