Tuesday, October 4, 2011



In a chat session, one friend - Malaysian asked why they say 'single tea'.
I thought some of you might wonder about this.

There is a custom which is followed in India regarding buying a drink of tea.

Long ago, the monetary system of India was rather complicated. 12 pais make 1 anna; 16 anna make one rupee. 

About 50 years ago, this system was done away with and replaced by the decimal coinage - 100 pais = 1 rupee. 

There were numerous small tea stalls. They are there even today. These were for the poor people. The stall was stocked with cheap bun, crakers, murukku, titbits,snack, cigarettes, cheroot, cheap vaiety of bananas, etc.
Although called tea stall, they also sold milk and coffee. But to a much lesser scale. 
Tea was sold as a standard measure. They always used a standard sized small glass. Tea was served upto three quarters of this glass.

The cost was 1 anna. 
A single anna for a single measure. 
So this was called the 'Single Tea'.

Later on, the word, 'Single' would mean a small measure of tea. 

In North India, they called it 'Chotta Chai' or just 'Chotta'. 

        After the anna vanished the single tea was standardised for 10 paisas. 
        Now a single tea costs around one rupee of more.

There were also bigger glasses which cost more.

But the poor man's drink was and is a 'single' with a dried bun.
People were generally poor in those days. 
So they would order single chaayaa or tea and then say 'one by two'. 
The tea stall owner would divide this single tea into two halves and pour into two glasses. 


1 comment:

  1. Dear Dr. Jaybee,

    1 anna was equal to 6 paise, not 12 paise as mentioned in your article. 25 paise coin was called 4 anna and 50 paise was called 8 anna. Please correct me if I am wrong.