Meghalaya rice tea that tastes like coffee


WHEN DOES tea taste like coffee? When it’s made of roasted rice, claim the last brewers in a remote corner of Northeast India’s Meghalaya state.

The traditional rice concoction yielding a beverage that is somewhere between tea and coffee has been ‘rediscovered’. The recipe is restricted to a few houses within a 10 sq km area in the state’s Jaintia Hills district.

“Cha-khoo (Cha is tea and khoo is rice in the local language) has resurfaced mainly because of a women’s self-help group (SHG) in Mynksan village under Laskein block,” Shanlang F Lyngdoh, project manager of MRDS-LIFCOM, said from Meghalaya capital Shillong. “This refreshing drink tastes partly like tea and partly like black coffee.”

MRDS-LIFCOM expands to Meghalaya Rural Development Society-Livelihood Improvement Company, a state government wing working with international agencies for rural development. Laskein is 94 km south of Shillong.

According to Nidaio Lapasam, secretary of the Chirupdeilang SHG in Mynksan village, cha-khoo was prevalent in a group of villages in Laskein block until the British introduced ‘conventional’ tea more than 100 years ago. “Cha-khoo involves roasting local red rice for some time, adding sugar during the process and straining in hot water. It was something our mothers gave us to be rejuvenated after working in the fields,” she said.

“Neither tea nor coffee can match the aroma of cha-khoo,” Lapasam added. “Our SHG is trying to popularise it so that it is rid of the endangered tag.”

Lyngdoh said the nutritional value of cha-khoo is yet to be ascertained. “We are consulting experts. At the same time we are helping villagers package the unique beverage,” he added.

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About rahconteur

A mid-career journalist who's worked horizontally across India - from Arunachal Pradesh to Gujarat
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