Eat + Drink

How a Dishwasher Became a Masala Chai Tea Expert in Mumbai

Tea time, anyone? Whether it’s masala, green or black, tea “is an important part of our daily lives in India,” says Suresh Thampy, Executive Chef at the Courtyard Marriott in Mumbai.

When the hotel wanted to hire a masala chai tea specialist, it didn’t have to look far.

Rajendra Dhuri had spent the past five years as a steward, assisting the other cooks in its kitchen as a dishwasher.

He was recently promoted to tea specialist, known as a chaiwalla, when he impressed Chef Thampy with his ability to make a great cup of chai.

Dhuri studied his grandmother’s technique of grinding cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and black tea leaves with a mortar and pestle in the early morning hours, with the aroma spreading throughout the house.

Today, he serves that tea to the hotel’s guests.

“Behind each of these cups of tea is a gentleman who has redefined the art of tea making,” Thampy says. More importantly, “it’s his heart which makes every cup so refreshing.”

After years of aspiring to wear his own chef’s coat, Dhuri is especially pleased that his success can be attributed to his family.

“If my late grandmother would’ve been here today, she would’ve been delighted to know that her grandson has made her family proud,” says Chef Dhuri.

“When my tea makes a guest happy, I feel delighted,” he adds.