Costly ginger sours Mumbaikar's tea

Jun 26, 2013, 06:20 IST | Richa Pinto

Spice's soaring prices take the zing out of city's quintessential ginger tea, as many tea vendors and housewives refrain from using it, citing sharp rises in cost since the start of the year

If you’re committed to that steaming cutting at the nukkad round your street, the absence of the fragrant adrak (ginger) from your cup of tea of late might be grating at you, especially since the weather demands its warming aroma. With prices of ginger having gone up drastically -- almost twice what they were at the start of the year -- not only chai wallas but food vendors are also finding it hard to offer the spicy condiment to their patrons. 

We first stopped at Sopan Dalvi’s tea stall in Parel, where the owner said he had stopped adding ginger in the tea, as it was getting too much of a bother for him. Dalvi used to sell adrak wali chai, a hot favourite with his customers, but looking at the costs, he is instead using elaichi for his clientele.

At Vashi’s Agricultural Produce and Marketing Committee (APMC), prices of ginger have been on a sharp rise since the beginning of the year. Traders said that in January the price at the wholesale market was around Rs 650 for 10 kg, which has risen to almost Rs 1,400 for the same quantity.

Not far from Dalvi’s stall, Ashok Pujari also feels the pinch of the cost surge, but continues offering the adrak chai at his shop. Pujari informed us that buying ginger was getting to be an expensive affair for him but then he could not do away with it, as his regular customers preferred their chai that way. Pujari said until last year he would purchase 5 kg of ginger within Rs 200, while lately, it’s costing him Rs 400 for 2.5 kg. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

Avinash Patil, deputy secretary of the APMC market, said ginger is in huge demand by consumers. “From a vegetarian to a non-vegetarian, everyone likes ginger in their food. Besides, tea stall vendors get a lot of customers that ask for adrak chai, more so during monsoons. But with the price of ginger going north, you can’t expect them to add ginger in your tea.” The two states other than Maharashtra from where the APMC is known to source ginger are Karnataka and Assam.

We then dropped by Vijay Tea at Lalbaug, owned by B R Mehta, who also continues using ginger in tea. “If I suddenly stop using it, I might lose my regular customers,” he says. “I have no option but to suffer losses till the time the price stabilises.” The shop uses up 3 kg of ginger everyday for preparing tea.

MiD DAY visited some popular tea vendors in the city to see how they are coping up with the situation. While some have continued using the piquant ingredient, others are staving off it until prices relent.

Our last stop was Raju Makhwana’s teashop, also at Lalbaug. Although a lot of his customers prefer ginger in their tea, the condiment has leapt off his budget so he’s desisting from using it. “Initially, I thought of buying ginger in a huge quantity from the Dadar market so it wouldn’t cost as much, but I felt even that may not be feasible.”

Ginger tonic
Taste isn’t the only thing that takes a beating minus ginger, which traditionally has been used for medicinal and curative purposes. Madhuri Somani, a Navi Mumbai-based dietician, said that ginger soothed the throat and is an effective antiseptic. “Ginger kills infection and helps in digestion. During monsoon, having a cup of ginger tea is always advisable to keep water-borne diseases at bay.” MiD DAY spoke to a few housewives, asking them how dispensable ginger is to their cooking. Kharghar resident Denipreet Kaur Malhotra said that ajwain would be a good alternative as it is good for the stomach. She said, “Ginger has been getting very expensive but we don’t have any other choice as it is needed to prepare almost every curry or vegetable. It gives a good tang when used in cooking.” “Lemongrass can be used in tea as it gives a lovely flavour,” said Sujata Rao of Vashi.

Rise in ginger prices this year
Jan-March:    Rs 650
                         per 10 kg

April- May:     Rs 750-900
                         per 10 kg

Mid June:      Rs 1,400
                        per 10 kg
                        (highest so far)

Ginger ails
I am not just missing ginger in my tea but also in my food. My wife recently told me about the cost issue. Maybe for sometime, we will have to adjust without having the city’s favoured aadrak chai.
--  Rajesh Mishra

Most of us love having ginger tea, especially during rains. It’s the ideal beverage with any kind of snacks. However, a few days ago when I visited the tea stall I got to know ginger was not being used as its price has shot up drastically.
--  Ajit Jadhav

Having tea at a stall without a tinge of ginger is a no-no for most Mumbaikars. I am definitely missing it in my tea.
--  Ramesh Harayavi

At a stall that I recently went to, I was asked to pay extra for ginger tea as compared to the regular one. When I asked for the reason, I was told about the bloated prices.
--  Rohan Khandare

In this weather, having ginger tea is ideal. But then with the way its price has been going up, many tea vendors are refraining from using it in their tea.
--  Ajay Tiwari


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