chai: Storm in a teacup as minister urges Pakistanis to cut back on ‘chai’

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani minister caused a storm in a cup of tea by urging people to cut down on drinking”chair“as a way to preserve foreign currency to pay for the import of leaves used to make popular soft drinks.
Pakistan is the world’s largest importer of tea – known locally as “boi” – with the latest government figures showing it pays more than $515 million a year to bring the item in, mainly from Kenya.
However, the country is going through a protracted economic crisis, with dwindling foreign exchange reserves being used to repay debts.
“I will also call on the country to cut a cup or two of tea because the tea we import is also imported on a credit basis,” Ahsan Iqbal, Minister of Planning and Development, said on Tuesday.
Pakistanis drink tea in many forms – black, green, hot, cold, sweetened, salted and spiced – but the most common is made by steeping the leaves in boiled sweetened milk.
Iqbal’s comments sparked outrage Wednesday on social media and at teahouses around the country.
Jan says: “Why should we reduce our use of tea…we drink at our own expense, we don’t drink at government money” Muhammad45 years old, a truck driver said he drinks between 15 and 20 cups a day.
“When you’re driving and you can’t see the road … there’s a risk of an accident. That’s why 20 glasses is mandatory,” he told AFP.
At a tea stall in Islamabad’s Aabpara market, the baker Muhammad Ibrahim says he drinks 12 cups a day.
“I drink three or four cups in the morning, then three in the afternoon and three or four late at night,” he says. “This is my addiction.”
At the same restaurant, Tanveer Iqbal agrees that everyone should cut back – even as he and his four children are sipping hot drinks.
The university professor noted that tea is served regularly in most meetings – especially those organized by government officials.
“How will we reduce the use of tea when tea is the main drink in all formal meetings?” he asks.
The “bottle” usually sells for around 45 Pakistani rupees (20 cents) a cup at stalls around the country.
“The government has increased spending. They take the big car ritual, but we just enjoy the tea,” said driver Muhammad.

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