If you were in India, anywhere you go you will smell the warm milky sensation of Chai Tea. Similarly, if you end up in Eastern Africa you are likely to find freshly roasted coffee recently picked from farms. In a local evening stroll in the Maldives, you are more likely to find warm short-eats and its signature drink Black Tea.
“Hoonu Kalheh” or “Kalhu Sai” is a common consumption for Maldivians since its trade began with Ceylon. Sri Lanka, the home of tea leaves has influenced the Maldivians to dine with tea. Ranging from tea bags, tea powder and fresh tea leaves, one of the earliest imports to Maldives alongside sugar, salt, rice and flour included tea. You are more likely to hear people going on coffees nowadays, and it has been unfortunately erasing our culture of drinking tea.
Before coffees, usually, men go out to cafés just to sit and have some tea with their friends alongside short-eats. Even though coffee has become the extreme alternative to the new generations, it is rare that you see Maldivians having anything other than tea whilst having short-eats.
Tea has not and probably will not be a replaced beverage in our culture. Popular cafés among the younger generations have begun bringing back tea including freshly brewed flavoured tea. The authentic nostalgia of a fresh pot of black tea is what to live for in the Maldives, and it is what is embedded in our cuisine.