A Taste of Indigenous Life at Shillong

The indigenous culture runs deep among the locals in Meghalaya and is something they take extreme pride in. The picturesque town of Shillong has more to offer than just captivating beauty at every corner. The food and drinks in Shillong are something to devour and an absolute hit amongst tourists.

Two such invigorating beverages - Cha Khoo and Sha Shiahkrot, have been known for decades for their rejuvenating quality. These two drinks, used by ancient Khasis, were discovered by an all-women Self-Help Group and the erstwhile Meghalaya Rural Development Society—LIFCOM, situated in Jaintia Hills.

Cha Khoo, which stands for tea (Chaa) and rice (Khoo) in the Jaintia dialect, is a local rice mixture that produces a beverage that tastes something like tea but has a bland coffee flavour. This was the only hot drink available in India before tea was popularised by the British.

An unconventional tea, derived from a root called Smilax, Sha Shiahkrot has an uncommon, sweet flavour. Sha stands for tea whereas Shiahkrot is a local plant. The tea is believed to have medicinal properties and is a go-to home ready for the locals.

Besides these two widely popular drinks, people now also interact and extend hospitality to one another over a plethora of other teas. Any Khasi family offers its guests Shashaw or Crimson Tea which is made from black tea leaves, as well as "kwai," or betel nuts and betel leaves. It is done as a way to welcome and bestow love on the guests in the house. In addition, the people of Meghalaya have also recently begun expanding their tea leaf production.

Owing to its tale of overcoming adversity, Mawlyngot village is one such town that has served as an inspiration to many. The town had earned a reputation for brawls and malicious behaviour until the residents of this village made a life for themselves by growing tea leaves. One of Asia's top Urlong Teas is produced in this hamlet.

A classic tea consumed by the residents of Meghalaya is Roselle Tea, also known as Sha Jajew. The Roselle, also known as "Jajew" in Khasi, is a species of the hibiscus family and serves as the primary ingredient in this beverage. Found in plenty in Meghalaya, November and December are the months when it is primarily harvested and has a tangy, fruity flavour.

On your next trip to Shillong, have a calming cup of tea while taking in the breathtaking vista of the highlands. You only need a hot beverage when the winds are howling. Immerse yourself in the experience of a lifetime and revel in the beauty of nature and healing powers of local teas.

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